This document is the catalogue text for an exhibition held at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC-USP) from March 8 to April 22, 1990; previously (October 1989), the show had been exhibited at the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage in Rio de Janeiro. Morais’s text is a response to questions about the merit (or lack of merit) of this sort of “art,” a debate that arose pursuant to the event in Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition of Arthur Bispo do Rosário’s work formulated a bold perspective according to which art is tied to insanity and madness is pertinent to contemporary art. Both exhibitions had a major impact on the Brazilian art scene.
This show attests to the interest in experimentation on the part of museums like the MAC-USP—especially during the tenures of Aracy Amaral and Walter Zegnini—as they formulated debates on issues pertinent to contemporary art like the art-madness binary; madness was relevant to contemporary practices concerned with the peripheral and the marginal. In the fifties in Brazil, artists Almir Mavigner and Abraham Palatnik gave classes in drawing and painting to inpatients at Engenho de Dentro psychiatric center in Rio de Janeiro, setting a precedent for these concerns. The debate that emerged around this show of work by Artur Bispo do Rosário (1911–1989), which was produced during the half century he spent in a psychiatric institution, revolved around whether or not the production of psychiatric patients could be called “art,” let alone avant-garde.
Frederico [de] Morais (b. 1936) is a major figure in Brazilian art criticism. Starting with his early work as a film critic in Belo Horizonte where he contributed to a number of the city newspapers, he has defended unconventional and experimental forms of expression associated with the avant-garde. In 1967, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, writing art criticism for the newspapers Diário de Notícias and O Globo. He was one of the most active “committed” critics of the sixties and seventies, supporting avant-garde movements and curating occasional experimental art exhibitions. Pursuant to the emergence of the “Geração 80,” he reformulated some of his political views and theories.
Texts by Morais on the “Geração 80” include “Leonilson: a Geração 80 ficou para tras,” (ICAA digital archive 1110961); on the “retour à l’ordre” in Brazil, see “Gosto deste cheiro de pintura” [I like the smell of paint] (1110992). Some of the countless texts on the “Geração 80” are found in the ICAA digital archive: “Dance a noite inteira mas dance direito” (1110945) y “Pintura dos anos 80: algumas observações críticas” (1110972).