Histories of madness: the drawings of Juquery

MASP - Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand

"It is not be confining one's neighbor that one is convinced of one's own sanity." - Fiódor Dostoiévski. In 2015, in a year dedicated to exhibitions of its collection, MASP presented, from 12.6 to 11.10.2015, an extraordinary set of drawings made by patients at the Hospital Psiquiátrico do Juquery, founded in Franco da Rocha, São Paulo in 1898.

The set of 102 drawings was donated to the museum in 1974 by Dr. Osório César (1895-1979), a pioneer in artistic practices in psychiatric hospitals in Brazil. For César, these works should not be understood in their therapeutic context alone, but instead as art, which explains the donation of the drawings to an art museum.

César had a long-running history with MASP, where he organized the I Exposição de arte do Hospital Juquery [I Exhibition of Art from Juquery Hospital] in 1948, a year after the museum opened, and the exhibition Arte dos alienados [Art of the Alienated], in 1954.

At the Museum, the exhibition was divided into two rooms, one dedicated to Albino Braz, with 42 of his works.

All of the drawings are made from ordinary materials like paper and pencil and, as such, their state of conservation is precarious and their formats are small.

The majority of the drawings are not dated, though it is supposed that they were created before 1964, the last year in which César was in charge of the Escola Livre de Artes Plásticas do Hospital do Juquery, the hospital's "free school".

Until recently, the works were registered at the museum as "art of the alienated," but we have taken this opportunity to reclassify them alongside the works categorized as "art from Brazil".

The title of the exhibition refers to the first chapter of a broader and long-term project at MASP entitled Histories of Madness. It also references the title of the book History of Madness (1961) by Michel Foucault (1926-1984), in which the author developed a genealogy of the idea of insanity constructed in the West.

Madness, which was once associated with liberty and ecstasy, became regarded as an illness and relegated to asylums, as a condition to be moralized, blamed and repressed.

The proposal of the exhibition refers to "histories" in the plural, not as a complete and consolidated history, but those that are open, flexible, in process.

The first exhibition of this important set of works, over 40 years after they arrived at MASP, also indicates paths for alternative readings and considerations, frequently marginalized in art histories, that go beyond the modern and Eurocentric, well known and canonical history in academia and museum. We have still much to learn from these drawings.

MASP - Museu de Arte de São Paulo
Credits: Story

"Histories of madness: the drawings of Juquery"
12.6 to 11.10.2015
Curatorial: Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director; and Luiza Proença, curator.

Credits: All media
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