What does looking to the art produced by psychiatric patients bring to our understanding of modernism and the rise of geometric abstraction in Rio de Janeiro in the mid-twentieth century? This article explores Brazilian critic Mário Pedrosa's early theses on the psychology of form in relation to his reception of psychiatric patients' creative production. In his early writings on Gestalt, Pedrosa insisted on the autonomy of form and on a modern global, or comprehensive, perception and critiqued bourgeois rationality for its exclusion of the mentally ill. To understand the historical and cultural specificity of Pedrosa's aesthetics of reception, I turn to Rio-based psychiatrist Dr. Nise da Silveira—it is in large measure her work and that of her patients, which stand at the center of this competing account of mid-century aesthetics in Brazil.

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