Author(s): REXER LYLE
Around the year 1910, a patient at State Lunatic Asylum No. 3 in Nevada, Missouri, who referred to himself as The Electric Pencil, executed 280 drawings in ink, pencil, crayon and colored pencil. These beautiful drawings of animals, people and buildings were executed on both sides of 140 ledger pages, each bearing the name of the hospital in official type across the top, thus dramatizing the interface of the institutional and the creative. The Electric Pencil's drawings were sewn into a handmade album of fabric and leather, which shortly afterwards was lost--for a century. Now that album is presented publicly for the first time since its making, displaying for contemporary audiences the strange and poignant beauty of the drawings. His many portraits--head-and-shoulders or just heads--feature formal, sometimes dazed-looking men and women with elaborate hats or razor-parted hair who stare out of the page with wide, piercing eyes that suggest both a possible chilling regime of "mental health" treatment and the unblinking, unsettling gaze of those who haunt the margins of sanity and society. The handsomely designed hardbound format of "The Drawings of the Electric Pencil" features an art folio book block within that opens flat. An essay by Lyle Rexer places the work in the broader context of outsider art, in which The Electric Pencil emerges as an artist of singular brilliance.
The Drawings of the Electric Pencil by Lyle Rexer should pique the macabre fascination we have with mental institutions and their inhabitants. This poignant glimpse into the creative mind of an anonymous mental-hospital patient is as mysterious and spooky as any ghost story.--Iris McLister"THE Magazine" (01/01/2012)