Untitled (Never Again series), 1995. Videla, Masseray Agosti with Monsignor Tortolo, Vicar of the Armed Forces (Photo: A. Kacero) and Giotto's Final Judgment, Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua 1306. Illustration of the edition of the book's Never More from CONADEP. Photo: Courtesy Fundación Augusto y León Ferrari

“Restless, he navigated all waters and experimented with various techniques and media such as xerox, videotext, mail art, microfiches, artist books, heliography, use of set-letter and sound installations”, wrote critic Leonor Amarante about the project. emblematic artist León Ferrari (1920-2013), whose centenary was celebrated on 3 September.

Untitled (Never Again series), 1995. Videla, Masseray Agosti with Monsignor Tortolo, Vicar of the Armed Forces (Photo: A. Kacero) and Giotto's Final Judgment, Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua 1306. Illustration of the edition of the book's Never More from CONADEP. Photo: Courtesy Fundación Augusto y León Ferrari

Regarding the date, the retrospective exhibition La Bonadosa Crueldad will tour Europe for two years. Its opening takes place this December 15, 2020 at the Reina Sofía Museum, in Madrid (Spain) – where seven rooms will be dedicated to Ferrari’s work -, followed by the Van Abbe Museum, in Eindhoven (Holland), where it remains from May 8 the 26th of September of the next year. The exhibition's journey in Europe ends in August 2022 at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris (France).

In this itinerancy, works circulate 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 Foundation Augusto and Leon Ferrari-Art and Collection. Among them, one that generates the greatest concern and yearning is The Western and Christian Civilization, which crucifies a retail-bought image of Jesus Christ atop a recreation of an American fighter jet.

Nuclear Hongo, 2007, Leon Ferrari
Nuclear Hongo, 2007, Leon Ferrari. Photo: Courtesy Fundación Augusto y León Ferrari

The piece was created on a commission by the Argentine Di Tella Institute award, in the mid-1960s. On that occasion, Ferrari produced a series of works that denounced the Vietnam War. Among them, several objects that offered representations of bombings of Vietnamese villages, figuring The Western and Christian Civilization as your most visible ensign. The centerpiece, or its reputation, sparked public debate, provoking the already-expected emphatic reactions that caused it to be recalled even before its official exhibition.

In response to an article by critic Ernesto Ramallo about the episode, the artist wrote: “I ignore the formal value of the pieces. The only thing I ask of art is to help me say what I think as clearly as possible, to invent plastic and critical signs that allow me to condemn with the greatest efficiency the barbarism of the West; it is possible that someone will show me that this is not art (…) I would not change my path, I would limit myself to changing your name”.

In the end, Ferrari agreed to the withdrawal so that his other work could remain in view. His defining moment chronologically fits into a period of radicalization of pop art in Argentina; which is noted by Ferrari's friend, the poet Rafael Alberti, in a sour and witty correspondence sent from Rome: “My dear Leon: I really like your anti [Lyndon] Johnson pop art projects. Let me know when they take him to Martín García to start a major international campaign for his release.”

The exchange between poet and artist took place in the months leading up to the first of two oppressive military regimes that took over the country – the latter resulting, in the late 1970s, in Ferrari’s refuge in Brazil and the disappearance of his son, Ariel. . Before that, Ferrari systematized his collaboration with Alberti in the publication Written in the air, from 1964, in which each abstract drawing by León dialogues with a poem by Raphael, all arranged in various ways in the space of the page, which generates a visual continuity between text and image. “This continuity is not only formal, but thematic: the poems allude to musicality and silence, signs, scratched, tangled; qualities that resonate in Ferrari's abstraction,” notes his foundation on their partnership.

Untitled (Never Again series)
Untitled (series Never Again), 1995. Flood of Doré, 1860 and Military Junta (Photo: Secretariat of Public Information). Illustration of the edition of installments of the book Never Again by CONADEP. Photo: Courtesy Fundación Augusto y León Ferrari

Today The Western and Christian Civilization is guarded by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, in Argentina, having departed from there only for the first stop on the itinerancy of La Bonadosa Crueldad. The work, however, returns to the museum at the end of the exhibition, representing in a practical and symbolic way the last segment of the retrospective, in the artist's homeland. On the Bellas Artes website, the film can also be seen 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.

In addition to already emblematic works, such as the one mentioned above, La Bonadosa Crueldad It also adds a significant number of unpublished documents made available by Fundación Augusto y León Ferrari to present other points of view on its production and the various actions it developed throughout its life. This proposal made by the foundation, to provide a broader view of León's life, was transported to its social networks during the month of September, with cycles of publications, records and stories sent by friends and family who shared their experiences with León and your job.

La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana, 1965, Leon Ferrari. Photo: Courtesy Fundación Augusto y León Ferrari

Although the commemorative show will not come to Brazil, the artist's centenary was celebrated by the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, with a montage of the work Words Ajenas, Ferrari's first literary collage, which shares the anti-war theme and was created at the height of the US invasion of Vietnam, between 1965 and 1967. history books, the Bible – and God as depicted in it – and speeches by political and religious figures such as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert McNamara, Pope Paul VI and Adolph Hitler. From this chorus assembled by Ferrari, he intends to expose the bellicose discursive relationship of the atrocities of the invasion of Vietnam and Nazism with the narratives of redemption and punishment contained in the sacred texts, reflecting, in a deeper layer, on the violence exercised by the West. camouflaged by the complicity between political and religious power.

Words Ajenas it was even partially performed in public twice (in 1968, at the Arts Lab, London, and, in 1972, at the Teatro Larrañaga, Buenos Aires), and only recently began to be presented in its full version (since its reading in English in 2017, at REDCAT, Los Angeles, only one complete performance was performed at the Museo Jumex, Mexico City, in 2018), given that its original text spans 250 pages and requires, on average, a cast of 30 readers. . At the Bienal de São Paulo, the first full reading of Words Ajenas in Brazil; with the health restrictions imposed by the pandemic, however, the organization had to adapt the exhibition format of the work, opting for the exhibition of only an excerpt, recorded when reading the literary collage on REDCAT. Two documents, arranged next to the monitor that displays the video, give a glimpse of the intricate process of transposition from collage to reading, are instructions for the performers and a printout of the technical script, “Act I: Whoever wins, wins”.

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