Learning from Madness: Brazilian Modernism and Global Contemporary Art

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

Throughout the history of European modernism, philosophers and artists have been fascinated by madness. Something different happened in Brazil, however, with the “art of the insane” that flourished within the modernist movements there. From the 1920s to the 1960s, the direction and creation of art by the mentally ill was actively encouraged by prominent figures in both medicine and art criticism, which led to a much wider appreciation among the curators of major institutions of modern art in Brazil, where pieces are included in important exhibitions and collections.

Kaira M. Cabañas shows that at the center of this advocacy stood such significant proponents as psychiatrists Osório César and Nise da Silveira, who championed treatments that included painting and drawing studios; and the art critic Mário Pedrosa, who penned Gestaltist theses on aesthetic response. Cabañas examines the lasting influence of this unique era of Brazilian modernism, and how the afterlife of this “outsider art” continues to raise important questions. How do we respect the experiences of the mad as their work is viewed through the lens of global art? Why is this art reappearing now that definitions of global contemporary art are being contested?

Learning from Madness offers an invigorating series of case studies that track the parallels between psychiatric patients’ work in Western Europe and its reception by influential artists there, to an analogous but altogether distinct situation in Brazil.
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About the author

Kaira M. Cabañas is associate professor in global modern and contemporary art history at the University of Florida, Gainesville.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 21, 2018
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780226556314
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / Caribbean & Latin American
Art / Folk & Outsider Art
Art / General
Art / History / Contemporary (1945-)
History / Latin America / South America
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From currency and maps to heavily censored newspapers and television programming, Art Systems explores visual forms of critique and subversion during the height of Brazilian dictatorship, drawing sometimes surprising connections between artistic production and broader processes of social exchange during a period of authoritarian modernization. Positioning the works beyond the prism of politics, Elena Shtromberg reveals subtle forms of subversion and critique that reinvented the artists’ political terrain.

Analyzing key examples from Cildo Meireles, Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio, Anna Bella Geiger, Sonia Andrade, Geraldo Mello, and others, the book offers a new framework for theorizing artistic practice. By focusing on the core economic, media, technological, and geographic conditions that circumscribed artistic production during this pivotal era, Shtromberg excavates an array of art systems that played a role in the everyday lives of Brazilians. An examination of the specific historical details of the social systems that were integrated into artistic production, this unique study showcases works that were accessed by audiences far outside the confines of artistic institutions. Proliferating during one of Brazil’s most socially and politically fraught decades, the works—spanning cartography to video art—do not conform to an easily identifiable style, form, material use, or medium. As a result of this breadth, Art Systems gives voice to the multifaceted forces at play in a unique chapter of Latin American cultural history.

How Brazilian postwar avant-garde artists updated modernism in a way that was radically at odds with European and North American art historical narratives.

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Martins argues that artists of Brazil's postwar avant-garde updated modernism in a way that was radically at odds with European and North American art historical narratives. He describes defining episodes in Brazil's postwar avant-garde, discussing crucial critical texts, including Gullar's “Theory of the Non-Object,” a phenomenological account of neoconcrete artworks; Oiticica, constructivity, and Mondrian; portraiture, self-portraiture, and identity; the nonvisual turn and missed encounters with conceptualism; and monochrome, manifestos, and engagement.

The Brazilian avant-garde's hijacking of modernism, Martins shows, gained further complexity as artists began to face their international minimalist and conceptualist contemporaries in the 1960s and 1970s. Reconfiguring not only art history but their own history, Brazilian avant-gardists were able to face contemporary challenges from a unique—and oblique—standpoint.

Outsider art has exploded onto the international art scene, gaining widespread attention for its startling originality and visual power. As an expression of raw creativity, outsider art remains associated with self-taught visionaries, psychiatric patients, trance mediums, eccentric outcasts, and unschooled artistic geniuses who create things outside of mainstream artistic trends and styles. Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and Trauma provides a comprehensive guide through the contested terrain of outsider art and the related domains of art brut, visionary art, "art of the insane," and folk art. The book examines the history and primary issues of the field as well as explores the intersection between culture and individual creativity that is at the very heart of outsider art definitions and debates.

Daniel Wojcik's interdisciplinary study challenges prevailing assumptions about the idiosyncratic status of outsider artists. This wide-ranging investigation of the art and lives of those labeled outsiders focuses on the ways that personal tragedies and suffering have inspired the art-making process. In some cases, trauma has triggered a creative transformation that has helped artists confront otherwise overwhelming life events. Additionally, Wojcik's study illustrates how vernacular traditions, religious worldviews, ethnic heritage, and popular culture have influenced such art. With its detailed consideration of personal motivations, cultural milieu, and the potentially therapeutic aspects of art making, this volume provides a deeper understanding of the artistic impulse and human creativity.

An illustrated study that casts a new light on Oiticica's most important work of "quasi-cinema" on its fortieth anniversary.

Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980) occupies a central position in the Latin American avant-garde of the postwar era. Associated with the Rio de Janeiro-based neo-concretist movement at the beginning of his career, Oiticica moved from object production to the creation of chromatically opulent and sensually engulfing large-scale installations or wearable garments. Building on the idea for a film by Brazilian underground filmmaker Neville D'Almeida, Oiticica developed the concept for Block-Experiments in Cosmococa--Program in Progress (1973-1974) as an "open program": a series of nine proposals for environments, each consisting of slide projections, soundtracks, leisure facilities, drawings (with cocaine used as pigment), and instructions for visitors. It is the epitome of what the artist called his "quasi-cinema" work--his most controversial production, and perhaps his most direct effort to merge art and life. Presented publicly for the first time in 1992, these works have been included in major international exhibitions in Los Angeles, Chicago, London, and New York.

Drawing on unpublished primary sources, letters, and writings by Oiticica himself, this illustrated examination of Oiticica's work considers the vast catalog of theoretical references the artist's work relies on, from anticolonial materialism to French phenomenology and postmodern media theory to the work of Jean-Luc Godard, Andy Warhol, and Brazilian avant-garde filmmakers. It discusses Oiticica's work in relation to the diaspora of Brazilian intellectuals during the military dictatorship, the politics of media circulation, the commercialization of New York's queer underground, the explicit use of cocaine as means of production, and possible future reappraisals of Oiticica's work.

The Cold War claimed many lives and inflicted tremendous psychological pain throughout the Americas. The extreme polarization that resulted from pitting capitalism against communism held most of the creative and productive energy of the twentieth century captive. Many artists responded to Cold War struggles by engaging in activist art practice, using creative expression to mobilize social change. The Art of Solidarity examines how these creative practices in the arts and culture contributed to transnational solidarity campaigns that connected people across the Americas from the early twentieth century through the Cold War and its immediate aftermath.

This collection of original essays is divided into four chronological sections: cultural and artistic production in the preÐCold War era that set the stage for transnational solidarity organizing; early artistic responses to the rise of Cold War polarization and state repression; the centrality of cultural and artistic production in social movements of solidarity; and solidarity activism beyond movements. Essay topics range widely across regions and social groups, from the work of lesbian activists in Mexico City in the late 1970s and 1980s, to the exchanges and transmissions of folk-music practices from Cuba to the United States, to the uses of Chilean arpilleras to oppose and protest the military dictatorship. While previous studies have focused on politically engaged artists or examined how artist communities have created solidarity movements, this book is one of the first to merge both perspectives.

The spellbinding story, part fairy tale, part suspense, of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, one of the most emblematic portraits of its time; of the beautiful, seductive Viennese Jewish salon hostess who sat for it; the notorious artist who painted it; the now vanished turn-of-the-century Vienna that shaped it; and the strange twisted fate that befell it.
 
The Lady in Gold, considered an unforgettable masterpiece, one of the twentieth century’s most recognizable paintings, made headlines all over the world when Ronald Lauder bought it for $135 million a century after Klimt, the most famous Austrian painter of his time, completed the society portrait.
 
Anne-Marie O’Connor, writer for The Washington Post, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, tells the galvanizing story of the Lady in Gold, Adele Bloch-Bauer, a dazzling Viennese Jewish society figure; daughter of the head of one of the largest banks in the Hapsburg Empire, head of the Oriental Railway, whose Orient Express went from Berlin to Constantinople; wife of Ferdinand Bauer, sugar-beet baron.
 
The Bloch-Bauers were art patrons, and Adele herself was considered a rebel of fin de siècle Vienna (she wanted to be educated, a notion considered “degenerate” in a society that believed women being out in the world went against their feminine “nature”). The author describes how Adele inspired the portrait and how Klimt made more than a hundred sketches of her—simple pencil drawings on thin manila paper.
 
And O’Connor writes of Klimt himself, son of a failed gold engraver, shunned by arts bureaucrats, called an artistic heretic in his time, a genius in ours.
 
She writes of the Nazis confiscating the portrait of Adele from the Bloch-Bauers’ grand palais; of the Austrian government putting the painting on display, stripping Adele’s Jewish surname from it so that no clues to her identity (nor any hint of her Jewish origins) would be revealed. Nazi officials called the painting, The Lady in Gold and proudly exhibited it in Vienna’s Baroque Belvedere Palace, consecrated in the 1930s as a Nazi institution.
 
The author writes of the painting, inspired by the Byzantine mosaics Klimt had studied in Italy, with their exotic symbols and swirls, the subject an idol in a golden shrine.
 
We see how, sixty years after it was stolen by the Nazis, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer became the subject of a decade-long litigation between the Austrian government and the Bloch-Bauer heirs, how and why the U.S. Supreme Court became involved in the case, and how the Court’s decision had profound ramifications in the art world.
 
A riveting social history; an illuminating and haunting look at turn-of-the-century Vienna; a brilliant portrait of the evolution of a painter; a masterfully told tale of suspense. And at the heart of it, the Lady in Gold—the shimmering painting, and its equally irresistible subject, the fate of each forever intertwined.
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