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Museu de Arte Osório Cesar, Franco da Rocha, BR

Venue: Gropius Bau

Museu de Arte Osório Cesar, Franco da Rocha, BR

Founded 1985 in Franco da Rocha, BR
With works by Aurora Cursino dos Santos, Maria Aparecida Dias,
 Ubirajara Ferreira Braga, Masayo Seta

The understanding and acknowledgement of artistic work by patients from psychiatric hospitals has a very singular history in Brazil, and Dr. Osório Cesar (1895–1979), together with the better known Dr. Nise da Silveira (1905–1999), is a fundamental influence. César, a reader of Hans Prinzhorn’s writings, led the national reform of the asylum system from his position at the Hospital Franco da Rocha, in Juquery, near São Paulo. In 1933, he partnered with artist Flávio de Carvalho to organize “The Month of the Children and the Mentally Ill” at the Clube dos Artistas Modernos (Club of Modern Artists, or CAM). In the midst of a growing modern movement, Carvalho and Cesar shared an interest in exhibiting the creativity of patients in psychiatric institutions, which they understood to be connected to a natural aptitude, unaffected by the artifice promoted by art academies. They identified in these works a “virgin” imaginary (a term introduced by art critic Mário Pedrosa), untouched by academic dogmas.

Even though Cesar’s therapeutic method made use of drawing, painting, and sculpture, he defended the resulting works’ artistry, their “creative exuberance,” and saw in them a “freedom” that made them equal in artistic value to the work of modernist artists. This set Cesar apart from the majority of his colleagues, who interpreted their patients’ artworks on the basis of their medical history or clinical biography; he believed those works should leave the hospital and enter the museum. In response, this selection of works from the Museu de Arte Osório Cesar, which was founded in 1985, are exhibited as artworks that deal with issues pertinent to us today, such as the perception of time and the act of waiting in confinement, the deconstruction of the figure of the religious leader, the subaltern position of Indigenous peoples, and the subsumption of children under the adult world. These artists, still considered by many as “outsiders,” show the relation between the concept of madness and the sickness of modernity, both the result of its normativity and its desire for control.

Lisette Lagnado

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