SHRINE is pleased to announce the opening of Alessandra Michelangelo (1961-2009), an exhibition of pastel and colored pencil drawings by the late Italian self-taught artist, Alessandra Michelangelo, who lived and worked in Livorno, Italy. The show, curated by artist Chris Byrne, marks the first gallery presentation of Michelangelo’s work in the United States and will offer a focused look at the artist’s otherworldly figurative and architectural drawings.
Michelangelo began to exhibit signs of schizophrenia at the age of 20 following the unexpected death of an older sister. As her mental illness progressed and became more debilitating, she was placed into a series of psychiatric facilities and residential mental health centers, where she would spend the bulk of her adult life. Alessandra was eventually admitted to the progressive Basaglia Psychiatric Center, named after Franco Basaglia, who was responsible for radically reforming the psychiatric movement in Italy. This facility helped Michelangelo become a daily participant at Blu Cammello Studio, a workshop and social cooperative where individuals with mental illness are provided with art materials and given the chance to develop their creative potential.
Despite being one of the most disturbed and remote patients at Blu Cammello, Michelangelo began to obsessively create, often drawing with both hands simultaneously to complete her work. With uninhibited, intuitive confidence, she produced a unique and cohesive body of work that offers viewers a veiled glimpse into her private inner landscape. Later in life, she quietly shed her birth name of Alessandra Brigiotti and began signing her works as “Alessandra Michelangelo,” in effect declaring herself an artist of importance. Comparisons to artists such as Peter Saul, Phillip Guston and Giorgio de Chirico (none of whom she was familiar with) are easy to make; however, Michelangelo’s drawings are a singular example of European art brut and very much her own.
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