Sleep of Reason: Selected Prints by Francisco Goya
From the Collection of Tom and Lore Firman
January 23 – April 11, 2016

The San Juan Islands Museum of Art presents Sleep of Reason: Selected Prints by Francisco Goya. The exhibition presents 16 prints culled from two of Goya’s famous suites of prints: Los Desastres de la Guerra (1810–20) and Los Caprichos(1797–98). The prints of Los Desastres were so politically charged that they couldn’t be published in his lifetime and were only released posthumously several decades after his death. Famous for impeccable technique and unwavering commentary on war and corruption of the human condition, these prints articulate his despair and endure in the universal acuity of this vision. These prints were generously loaned to SJIMA from the Collection of Tom and Lore Firman.

Goya served as a court painter for four successive rulers of Spain and is considered one of the most imaginative Spanish artists. An extraordinarily incisive observer of the human condition, his work explores diverse subjects, genres, and formats. SJIMA’s exhibition focuses on his prints, a genre in which Goya explored expressions of human society and human nature as it is shaped during war, famine, and intense poverty. He did not shy away from difficult subjects, and his prints confront hubris, ignorance, superstition, and myriad forms of violence. The title print of the exhibition The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters depicts Goya himself slumped over a table haunted by nightmares and demons swirling about him in the form of owls.

This exhibition is provided as a historical counterpoint to the exhibitions by contemporary artists Ai Weiwei and Dana Lynn Louis, also on display in the museum. Together, all three exhibitions are linked by the common thread of human rights.

Art museums and human rights share a long entwined history. Museums house the works of artists who simultaneously inhabit their cultures even as they stand outside of them. Ian Boyden, Executive Director of San Juan Islands Museum of Art and curator of these exhibitions, says, “The artist’s mind is often noted as one that poignantly feels and responds to injustice, and rebalances the scales through expression that exists outside of words. These three exhibitions provide a perfect example of how art and human rights are intimately linked—and are a beautiful testimony to the value of museums in our communities.”