LEÓN FERRARI (ARGENTINA, B. 1920)
León Ferrari is one of the most significant artists working in Latin America during the second half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century. The central theme of his work is the visual body of language. He is concerned with “revealing truths” through the manipulation of the written word. León’s career has met much resistance due to its controversial, politically-charged nature. Many of his pieces use language as a metaphor of the worldly aspect of human existence. Though he created the bulk of his works throughout the 1960s to 1980s, León is still actively producing work at the age of ninety years-old.
At the forefront of pre-conceptual art, Ferrari’s career developed at a time when the question of language was particularly central to Western culture due to the role taken by post-structuralism, semiotics, and the philosophy of language. Ferrari has worked in a wide range of art forms and mediums. He has explored techniques such as sculpture, painting, drawing, and assemblage to film, collage, mail art, poetry, and sound. During his time in Italy in the 1950s, he produced ceramic sculptures stylistically connected to the European abstraction of the time. Upon returning to Argentina, he continued to create sculptural works of metal wires and rods before beginning what would become his most iconic works, a series on paper and, ultimately, installations, developing an organic style in which gestural forms appear both as abstractions and as explorations of the codes of writing.
Known for his antagonistic political stance and artistic ethics, Ferrari obtained international acclaim just over ten years ago when his work was included in the 2000 survey exhibition ‘Heterotopias’ at the Centro Reina Sofía in Madrid. Four years later in 2004 a national scandal arose in his name at the Centro Cultural Recoleta in Buenos Aires, where the artist had his first major retrospective exhibition. During the forty days that the exhibition lasted 70,000 visitors passed through the art center, 1,000 articles were printed, and countless manifestations arose both against and in defense of the artist and his work; this mass outpouring of attention solidified Ferrari as one of the most important artists of Latin America.
In October 2006 the retrospective organized by the Centro Cultural Recoleta opened at the Pinacoteca in São Paulo, Brazil under the title ‘León Ferrari: Poéticas e Políticas’. That same year Ferrari was honored as artist of the year at the São Paulo Biennial. Further acclaim followed in October of 2007 when León Ferrari was awarded the Gold Lion at the 52nd Venice Biennale. This past year The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York inaugurated ‘Tangled Alphabets’ a two-artist retrospective of León Ferrari and Mira Schendel. The exhibition in New York was followed by presentations at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid (Nov. 24, 2009–Mar. 1, 2010); and the Fundação Iberê Camargo in Porto Alegre, Brazil which opened in April 8, 2010 and will run through July 11, 2010.
León Ferrari’s work can be found in important public collections, amongst others: the Tate Modern, London; Daros Latin American Collection, Zurich; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires; Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil; and the Museo de Arte Moderno de México, Mexico City. Leon Ferrari lives and works in
Buenos Aires, Argentina.