Born 1962, Kentucky.
George Widener’s artwork is as intellectually challenging as it is aesthetically compelling. A high-functioning savant who has channeled his extraordinary gifts of numerical computation into artmaking, Widener struggled for years before his talent was recognized. Born in Kentucky in 1962, Widener was not diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome until he was an adult, making an already difficult childhood even more so. Following a stint of service in the US Air Force, Widener was diagnosed with depression, and committed to several psychiatric hospitals. He eventually attended the University of Tennessee. He currently lives and works in Waynesville, NC, near Asheville.
Widener’s brain has been proven to function as a super-calculator, a gift that allows him to process mathematical information in a radically different way than most people do. By directing his impulse to calculate complex sequences of numbers through stunning, often large-scale drawings, Widener makes visible not only his savant skillset, but also his unique creative talent for reimagining it aesthetically. Far from mere illustrations of mathematical process, his drawings stage through form and content simultaneously, often playing out elaborate numerical puzzles and games, complex puns, palindromes, and informed prophecies. The artist’s love for punning is evidenced by drawings of magic squares: squares that contain 9 rows of numbers, in each row of numbers adds up to the same value.
Manipulating time as an artistic medium, Widener’s favored vehicle for processing mathematical, historical, and personal information is the calendar. He uses calendars to consider both linear and random historical patterns, giving as much weight to logic as to chance and synchronicity. Often staining patched-together napkins or scrolls with tea to affect the look of parchment, Widener creates preciously fragile compositions that seem torn from the pages of medieval manuscripts, each page layered with accident, palimpsests, and esoteric knowledge. His concern with the future has grown into creating elaborate games for the amusement of machines, whom he believes will gain the ability to think independently by 2050. Despite his relative youth, Widener has earned international recognition as one of the most significant Outsider Artists the world has seen.
- Jenifer P. Borum
George Widener: Tip of the Iceberg, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
Outsider Art: The Collection of Victor F. Keen, curated by Alison Amick, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, IL
An Alternative Canon: Art Dealers Collecting Outsider Art, curated by Paul Laster, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler, American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
George Widener: Playing Games: Chance, Skill, and Abstraction, Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York, NY
Doors of Perception, Curated by Javier Téllez in collaboration with the Outsider Art Fair, Frieze New York
George Widener Magic Circles, Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York, NY
The Outsider Art Fair Paris, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
System and Vision, David Zwirner, New York, NY
Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
The Alternative Guide to the Universe, Hayward Gallery, London, UK
Brazilian Customs Snafu, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
George Widener: Secret Universe IV, Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany
Secret Universe: George Widener, Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York, NY
World Transformers: The Art of the Outsiders, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany
In the No, Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
Dallas Art Fair, Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
The Outsider Art Fair, Henry Boxer Gallery, New York, NY
Tension, Invention, Intoxication and Liberty: Victor Hugo to Martin Ramirez, Jan Krugler Gallery, New York, NY
Elegant Obsessions - Outsider and Visionary Art, Orleans House, London, United Kingdom
Prague City Gallery, Prague, Czechoslovakia
The Outsider Art Fair, New York, NY
Henry Boxer Gallery, London, United Kingdom
VSA Arts Festival, Washington, D.C.
Keats, Jonathon, “ Savant George Widener Makes Art For Robots… But You’d Better See His Berlin Exhibit Even If You’re Human,” Forbes, May 22, 2013.
Rugoff, Ralph, ed. The Alternative Guide to the Universe, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Publishing, London 2013.
Gómez, Edward M., "On the Border," Art & Antiques Magazine, February Issue.
Cardinal, Roger and Colin Rhodes, The Art of George Widener, Henry Boxer Gallery, London.
Cardinal, Roger, "George Widener: An Obsession with Dates and Calendars," Raw Vision, Issue #51.
Smith, Roberta, "Untamed Art From the Fringes is a Gust of Bracing Air," New York Times, January Issue.
Boler, Kelly, "George Widener’s Art for Art’s Sake," Rapid River Magazine, Vol. 7., No. 10.
American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, FR
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland
Halle Saint Pierre, Paris, France
Hamburger Bahnhof National Museum, Berlin, Germany
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Treger Saint Silvestre Collection, João da Madeira, Portugal
Museum of the Mind | Outsider Art, Amsterdam