Leon Ferrari. Untitled (1976). Photo: Disclosure.
Leon Ferrari. Untitled (1976). Photo: Disclosure.

A Galeria Nara Roesler celebrates the centenary of the Argentine artist León Ferrari (1920-2013) with the virtual exhibition Leon Ferrari in Sao Paulo, curated by Luis Peréz-Oramas. THE show takes place starting this Thursday, June 4, on the gallery's website and Artsy. It was also Galeria Nara Roesler that held, in 2013, the first large-scale solo show after the artist’s death that year, at the time curated by Lisette Lagnado and a selection of works covering the period between 1962 and 2009.

Illustrative image of the virtual visitation of Galeria Nara Roesler. Photo: Disclosure.
Illustrative image of the virtual visitation of Galeria Nara Roesler. Photo: Disclosure.

This time, the metropolis of São Paulo is highlighted as a participant element in Ferrari's work, due to his exile in São Paulo from 1976 to 1991. The artist came to Brazil to protect his family 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 elections in October, resulting in the election of Raúl Afonsín, from the Radical Civic Union.

In the early years of his establishment in São Paulo – still marked by the illegal arrest and murder of his son Ariel by the Argentine military forces – Ferrari revisits his practice of abstract drawing, which he dominated in the early 1960s. This time, the artist presents a completely new gestural design, an abstract typology reminiscent of tongues of fire, metaphors for hell, whose Judeo-Christian notion would be abolished by Ferrari later in his life.

Leon Ferrari. Last Judgment (1985). Photo: Disclosure.
Leon Ferrari. Detail of the work Juízo Final (1985). Photo: Disclosure.

To Pérez-Oramas: "Ferrari's beliefs or disbeliefs came to include a view of Judeo-Christian sacred texts as perverse calls to exclusion, torture and crime." Through the appropriation of images of wars, history and the history of art, Ferrari uses collage for his reinterpretation of the Bible and, more specifically, of hell. An example of this is the Last Judgment by Michelangelo, who was subjected to defecation by birds in one of his great performance compositions.

Despite the sarcastic criticism of power and religion having marked part of his work, it is soon noticed that the key to “activism” is reductive to explain his production. As an example, Galeria Nara Roesler brings in the new exhibition 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. The works of the series Architecture of Madness manifest themselves in drawings, engravings, zianotypes, xeroxes, etc.

From left to right: "Maquette for men" (1962); Untitled (1978); "Loves of a Prism" (1977). Photo: Disclosure.
From left to right: “Maquette for men” (1962); Untitled (1978); “Loves of a prism” (1977). Photo: Disclosure.

His sculptural practice is also not left out of the exhibition. Also because the peak of this production took place while Ferrari resided in the capital of São Paulo. Using tangled metal wire, cage-like prismatic structures and cage-like modular volumes, some of his works made from this medium are monumental in scale and are intended for participatory, performance and sound events.

Other centenary celebrations

While some exhibitions designed to celebrate the centenary of Ferrari could be adapted for the virtual environment, two larger-scale retrospectives had their physical opening postponed. One in his hometown, Buenos Aires, and another in Spain, in Madrid.

In Argentina, an anthological exhibition with emblematic objects, drawings, videos, sculptures and ceramics by the artist will take over the Temporary Exhibitions Pavilion of the Museo de Bellas Artes. The exhibition, curated by Andrés Duprat, director of Bellas Artes, and historian Cecilia Rabossi, scheduled to open on April 13, has been canceled and is awaiting an opening date. The exhibition covers the artist's entire life, bringing together works belonging to the museum itself, private and public collections and works granted by the Foundation Augusto and León Ferrari Arte y Acervo, directed by the architect Anna Ferrari and Julieta Zamorano, granddaughters of León. 

For Duprat, the retrospective is a form of poetic justice to repair a museum's omission of Ferrari's work. Like Leonor Amarante wrote to arte!brasileiros: “Ferrari is not unanimous. He and his work have already beaten and beaten a lot, which has made him a courageous witness to the destruction of the substance of human relationships. Over 60 years of art, he lived against the flow of the system, being pushed to hell to emerge even stronger.” An example of this is his award, in 2007, with the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, coming shortly after a clash with the Catholic Church that led to retaliation for his show at the Centro Cultural Recoleta, organized by Andrea Giunta. 

The exhibition of his works at the MNBA will be preceded by a selection of photographs and paintings by Augusto César Ferrari, father of the artist, and continued with the exhibition of the documentary Civilization, by Ruben Guzman. Something unprecedented will be the notebooks of León Ferrari, which had not been exhibited before at Recoleta. To the Argentine newspaper La Nación, Duprat commented that Ferrari, in that sense, was like Leonardo: “He wrote everything. They are incredible and show the genesis of their investigations.” 

As part of the tribute, at Reina Sofía*, the exhibition La Bonadosa Crueldad will feature an important donation from the artist's family – around 15 works – and the exhibition of unpublished works in Europe. Its start, which was originally scheduled for July 28, is still under discussion. The museum highlights that it is not yet possible to risk dates, given the unstable situation of the pandemic in Europe. 

*Museo Reina Sofia and the pandemic

In April, the Madrid museum entered into contact with creditors and institutions, studying possibilities for new loan dates. The museum highlights the provisional nature of the measures taken at the moment, as the institution's actions depend not only on the situation in Spain but also on the whole of Europe and beyond, as some of the works come from different countries. So much so that works belonging to Reina Sofía and which are outside the museum will remain, for the necessary time, in the institutions where they are located, regardless of the end of the exhibitions.

Facade of the Reina Sofia Museum. Photo: Disclosure
Facade of the Reina Sofia Museum. Photo: Disclosure

In April, Manuel Borja-Villel, director of Reina Sofía, published a letter on the Artnet website addressing the challenges brought to the art world by the pandemic and the need to think about the future. The director highlighted the importance of the Spanish government's assistance program for the maintenance of the Reina Sofía team, and that the museum is currently working to make a greater amount of material available for free, as the institution had already purchased the rights to do so. . 

Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the Museo Reina Sofía. Photo: Europa Press News/Getty Images.
Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the Museo Reina Sofía. Photo: Europa Press News/Getty Images.

Moving towards the end of his statement, the director reinforces the need not to let public spaces disappear; “there is an element of joy, learning and democracy in being together with other people”.


Leave a comment

Please write a comment
Please write your name