León Ferrari

(1920 – 2013)

Argentina

Biography

 

Leon Ferrari was born in Argentina in 1920.  His father was a well-known Italian painter and restorer of religious art. He was formed as an engineer and on his first trip to Italy in 1952, he started to make sculptures with wood and ceramics. His art evolved quickly though, and by 1962, he started his first series of Written Drawings: unintelligible, calligraphy-like pieces. In 1964, he did “Cuadro Escrito”, the written description of an artwork. This piece is considered one of the first conceptual works of art worldwide. After having various exhibitions in Argentina, Ferrari had a large solo show for the Di Tella prize. This exhibition, which included his famous “Western and Christian Civilization,” depicting Christ crucified against an American fighter plane, is censured. This is the first of a long series of scandals that would go on well into the 2000’s.

 

Having completely set his focus into criticizing political western barbarism, Ferrari started synthesizing his work to communicate his ideas powerfully. In 1968, he wrote an essay called “El arte de los significados”, or “The Art of Meaning,” in which he advocates for efficiency as his ethos for creating art.  When the right-wing dictator Videla became president of Argentina in 1976, Ferrari fled to Sao Paulo where he resided until 1991. In the company of many other artists, Ferrari started experimenting with various innovative mediums such as photocopy, lithography, video- text, and even bird excrements.

 

In 2004, Ferrari received a large retrospective in Argentina; in 2006, he was a special guest for the Sao Paulo Biennale; in 2007, he received the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale; and in 2009, his work was the object of a large retrospective alongside Mira Schendel at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Ferrari is remembered as one of the most incendiary artists of his lifetime and a pioneer for conceptual art.

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