Learning from Madness: Brazilian Modernism and Global Contemporary Art (University of Chicago Press, 2018) proposes a historical and theoretical account of how modern and contemporary art developed in dialogue with the creative work of psychiatric patients. At the center of this interdisciplinary study stand two prominent psychiatrists: Osório César and Nise da Silveira. Both advocated non-aggressive psychiatric treatment, principally through the creation of painting studios for their patients. Through a series of case studies, the book aims to discover the highly mediated and largely unexplored ways that the exhibition of their patients’ work was key to the institutionalization of modern art, inflecting the practice of art and criticism from the 1920s to today. The study also offers a crucial transnational and global perspective. It traces key differences in modernism’s relationship to madness in Brazil and Europe and concludes with a discussion of why the “outsider” artist reappears in contemporary art when definitions of the global contemporary are at stake.

Kaira M. Cabañas is the author of The Myth of Nouveau Réalisme: Art and the Performative in Postwar France (Yale University Press, 2013) and Off-Screen Cinema: Isidore Isou and the Lettrist Avant-Garde (University of Chicago Press, 2014). In 2012, she co-curated Specters of Artaud: Language and the Arts in the 1950s at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, and also served as the catalogue’s editor. Her writings have appeared in numerous museum catalogs and the journals OctoberGrey RoomOxford Art Journal, and Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, among others. She is Associate Professor in the School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida, Gainesville.