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Biography

LEON FERRARI
[1920 - 2013, Argentina]

"Art is not beauty or novelty, art is effectiveness and disruption…”

Born in 1920 in Buenos Aires, León Ferrari's artistic practice encompassed the media of painting, collage, sculpture, poetry, and printmaking. Known internationally for his often-provocative social and political critiques, Ferrari made work that was highly critical of war, social inequality, discrimination (sexual, religious, and ideological), and abuse of power.

In the 1950s, Ferrari traveled repeatedly to Italy, where he began making sculpture. In the early 1960s, he began exploring the connections between word and line in Cuadros escritos (Written Paintings) and Dibujos escritos (Written Drawings) and he continued these explorations throughout his career. These abstract “writings” on canvas and paper combine dry pastel, graphite, watercolor, and colored pencil to make lyrical, almost calligraphic imagery. About these works, Ferrari writes, “I draw silent handwritten words, which tell things, with lines that recall voices. And I write drawings that recite memories that words cannot say” (Letter to Christina Harrison, 1996).

In 1965, an exhibition including Ferrari’s La civilización occidental y cristiana (Western Christian Civilization) was censored and then closed by the Catholic Church. His subsequent work would challenge the policies of the church and the role of religion in the history of art. In the late 1960s, Ferrari participated in the collective known as Tucumán Arde. The group intended to draw attention to the conditions of the Tucumán Province through an intervention into the circuits of mass communication, countering the official news media of the Argentine dictatorship. During this period of increasing political activism, Ferrari published what would become a famous manifesto and call-to-arms for artists, in which he wrote, “Art is not beauty or novelty, art is effectiveness and disruption…”

With the persecution, murder, and disappearances of family members and friends during the Guerra Sucia (Dirty War) in Argentina, Ferrari fled to São Paulo, where he remained from 1976 to 1991. During this political exile, Ferrari created metal sculptures, photocopies, postal art, heliography, and art books, and he continued his explorations in drawing. Upon his return to Buenos Aires in the early 1990s, Ferrari created a series of collages to illustrate the official report about the disappearance of Argentineans during the war; the report, created by the National Commission for the Disappearance of Persons, was titled “Never Again” and it was published in 1984 and reissued with Ferrari’s collages in 1996. The imagery condemns the relationships between the repressive military regime and the religious establishment.  

Quote

"Art is not beauty or novelty, art is effectiveness and disruption…”

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2022
L’aimable cruauté, The Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Heliographs, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Atchugarry (MACA), Manantiales, Punta del Este, Uruguay

2020
The Kind Cruelty (L’aimable cruauté): León Ferrari, 100 Years, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands; Musée National d’Art Moderne-Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

2018
The Words of Others: León Ferrari and Rhetoric in Times of War, Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), FL, USA
León Ferrari, Galerie Mitterrand, Paris, France
León Ferrari: For a World with no Hell, Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo, Brazil

2017
León Ferrari, The Words of Others: Leon Ferrari and Rhetoric in Times of War, REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2015
León Ferrari: To Write, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX, USA

2014
La donación Ferrari, Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA), Argentina

2012
León Ferrari, Brailles y relecturas de la Biblia, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Argentina

2011
León Ferrari, Haunch of Venison, New York, NY, USA
León Ferrari, Museo del Banco de la República de Bogotá, Colombia

2010
Re-encontres, Église Sainte Anne, Arles, France
Luces de León, Fondo Nacional de las Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Retrospective, Museo Emilio Caraffa, Córdoba, Argentina; Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Rosario, Argentina; Secundario de Artes, Fiorito, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Museo de Bellas Artes, Salta, Argentina

2009
León Ferrari: 40 Years of Work, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX, USA
Galería Zavaleta LAB, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Locura urbana, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina

2008
León Ferrari, Los Músicos, Galería Braga Menéndez Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
León Ferrari, Obras 1976-2008, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico
León Ferrari, Antológica, Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino, Ciudad de Rosario, Argentina

2007 
Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Leon Ferrari, Galería Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires, Argentina

2006
Revisiting Tautology, Pan American Art Projects, Miami, FL, USA
Poliuretanos, Sonoridad Amarilla, Buenos Aires, Argentina
León Ferrari, A Relentless Critique of Power, University Gallery, University of Essex, UK
Retrospectiva León Ferrari, Pinacoteca do Estado do São Paulo, Brazil

2005
Escrito en el Aire, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Neuquén, Argentina
Plumas y Brillos, Galería Braga Menéndez Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

2004 
Retrospectiva León Ferrari, obras 1954-2004, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Instrumentos para dibujar sonidos, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Argentina
Politiscripts, The Drawing Center, New York, NY, USA
Escrituras, Galería Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires, Argentina

2002
The Architecture of Madness, University of Essex, UK

2000
Infiernos e Idolatrías, ICI, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1997
Tormentos-amores, Arcimboldo Gallery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1992
Sobre Justicias y Preservativos, Espacio Giesso, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1989
Retrospective, Sívori Museum, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1987
Heretic Chapel by León Ferrari, Franklin Furnace, New York, NY, USA

1986
Serie Parahereges, II Bienal de La Habana, Centro Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba

1984
León Ferrari: Ocho años en Brazil, Arte Nuevo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1983
Casa de las Américas, Havana, Cuba

1982
Planos, heliografías y fotocopias, Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico
Prismas e retângulos, Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro (MAM), Brazil; Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico

1980
A Arte de León Ferrari, Museo de Arte Moderno, São Paulo (MAM), Brazil

1978
Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paulo, Brazil

1964
Escrituras, alambres y manos, Lirolay, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1960
Esculturas, Galatea, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1955
Cerámicas, Galeria Cairola, Milan, Italy; Via Margutta, Rome, Italy

Selected Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

Arturo Schwarz, Milan, Italy

Banco Nación Collection, Argentina

Banco Velox Collection, Argentina

Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX, USA

Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY, USA

Cambiaso Collection, Argentina

Cancillería, Collection, Argentina

Casa de las Américas, Havana, Cuba

Centro Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba

Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich, Switzerland

Davis Museum, Wellesley College, MA, USA

Diane & Bruce Halle Collection, Scottsdale, AZ, USA

Fondo Nacional de las Artes, Argentina

Giesso Collection, Argentina

Harvard Art Museum, The Fogg Museum, Cambridge, MA, USA

Helft Collection, Argentina

Herlitzka Collection, Argentina

Liprandi Collection, Argentina

Musée National d’Art Moderne-Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Atchugarry (MACA), Manantiales, Uruguay

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Bahía Blanca, Argentina

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Argentina

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Argentina

Museo de Arte Moderno de Rio de Janeiro (MAM), Brazil

Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico

Museo del Grabado, Argentina

Museo La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia

Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino, de Rosario, Argentina

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain

Museo Salvador Allende, Santiago, Chile

Museo Sívori, Museo de Arte Moderno, Argentina

Museu de Arte Brazileira, Pinacoteca do Estado Brazil

Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil

Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Brazil

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), TX, USA

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY, USA

Nagel Collection Argentina

Rosenkrantz Collection, Argentina

Tate Modern, London, UK

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA, USA

Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands