"Irestless, sailed on all waters and experimented with various techniques and media such as xerox, videotext, mail art, microfiche, artist books, heliography, use of letter-set and sound installations”, wrote journalist Leonor Amarante about the emblematic argentine artist Leon Ferrari, whose centenary is celebrated this September 3rd.
Regarding the date, the retrospective exhibition La Bonadosa Crueldad will tour Europe for two years. Its opening will take place on December 15 at the Reina Sofía Museum, in Madrid (Spain) – where seven rooms will be dedicated to the work of Ferrari -, followed by the Van Abbe Museum, in Eindhoven (Netherlands), where it will remain from May 8 until September 26 next year. The exhibition's journey in Europe ends in June 2022 at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris (France).
La Bonadosa Crueldad proposes a journey through the works, ideas and political struggles that crossed the life of the Argentine artist. Works that “dismantle the naturalized sequences of violence propagated by war, religion and other systems of power”, and that “invite those who look at them to stop, reflect and take a stand”, according to the Augusto y León Ferrari-Arte y Acervo Foundation.
The exhibition also aggregates a significant number of unpublished documents made available by the Augusto y Leon Ferrari Foundation to present other points of view about his production and the various actions he developed throughout his life. Such a proposal made by foundation, to provide a broad view of León's life, will be transported to his social networks during the month of September, with cycles of publications, records and stories sent by friends and family who will share their experiences with León and his work.
In his home country, the National Museum of Fine Arts set up in his entrance hall one of the most striking works of the artist: Western Civilization and Christian. First shown in 1965, it features a figure of Christ crucified on the wings of an American warplane. Its importance is such that, for the curator Andrea Giunta, after this work “León abandons art in the traditional sense of the term”.
While the institution remains closed to visitors, La Civilization can be seen from outside the museum. In November, she leaves for Europe as part of the retrospective show. The work returns to Belas Artes in 2022, after the completion of La Bonadosa Crueldad, kicking off the museum's exhibition season, with actions previously scheduled for 2020 and postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On the Belas Artes website, the film can now be viewed in its entirety. Civilization, awarded at the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival in 2012, a year before Ferrari's death. Directed by Rubén Guzmán, the documentary records exclusive interviews and shows the nature of an original work especially for the film. (watch here).
Leon and Brazil
Andrea Giunta states that “León's work in the 1960s is delicate and monumental. The drawings of floating lines, just a succession of strokes on the paper, dialogue with his sculptures that weld or entangle the wire”. At the same time, these works coexist with La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana (1965).
Focused on the Vietnam War in the years 1966 to 1970, Ferrari returns to abstract steel sculptures during the period he lived in São Paulo between 1976 and 1991 (he returns to Buenos Aires soon after). In 1975, Ferrari leaves for Brazil with Alicia, his wife, and all their family, to protect himself from the hostility created in his native country by the dictatorship that began in 1976 and ended in 1983, when the last military junta called for elections in October. In São Paulo, León is linked to the city's experimental formations with artists such as Regina Silveira, Julio Plaza, Carmela Gross, Alex Flemming, Marcelo Nietsche and Hudinilson. “The São Paulo moment [still scarred by the illegal arrest and murder of his son Ariel by the Argentine military forces] is also a return to the sacred scriptures and the role that biblical writings play in the history of the West”, recalls Giunta.
In an attempt at retribution, the metropolis of São Paulo received two tribute exhibitions with works by Ferrari. One at MASP, in 2015, and another at Nara Roesler Gallery, in June of this year – it was also the gallery that held, in 2013, the first large-scale solo show after the artist’s death, at the time curated by Lisette Lagnado and a selection of works covering the period between 1962 and 2009.
In the most recent show in Brazil, the The city of São Paulo was highlighted as a participating element in the Argentine's work, in an effort to show that the key to “activism” is reductive to explain his production. THE exposure brought works by Ferrari that communicate the absurdity of ordinary life, the alienation of crowds and the influence of the overwhelming city that is São Paulo.
Meanwhile, at MASP, five years ago, almost 100 works – belonging to the museum’s collection – around the theme Leon Ferrari: Between Dictatorships, serving as “testimony of its struggle against the anti-democratic forces that were established in Latin America in the 60s, 70s and 80s”, as wrote Eduardo Simões to arte!brasileiros at the time. In particular about the exposed heliographs, the journalist reported: “León Ferrari made dozens of versions of this work, showing the kilometer journey made by a person in search of information about the missing, without ever getting anywhere. He had the humor and stomach to create this labyrinth where the search triggers multiple reinterpretations of the dissolution of life”.