Biography (1920 – 2013)
Born in 1920 in Buenos Aires, León Ferrari was a self-taught artist who became one of the foremost pioneers of conceptual art in Argentina. His artistic practice includes painting, collage, sculpture, poetry, and printmaking. In the 1950s, Ferrari travelled repeatedly to Italy, where he began working with sculptures. In the early 1960s, he explored the connections between word and line in Cuadros Escritos (Written Paintings) and Dibujos Escritos (Written Drawings). These abstract “writings” on canvas and paper combined dry pastel, graphite, watercolour, and coloured pencil to make lyrical, almost calligraphic imagery. About them Ferrari wrote, “I draw silent handwritten words, which tell things with lines that recall voices. And I write drawings that recite memories that words cannot say”.
In the late 1960s, Ferrari participated in the group “Tucumán Arde” which intended to draw attention to the poor political and economical conditions of the Province of Tucumán. 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…” After the persecution and disappearances of his family members and friends, Ferrari fled to São Paulo. Upon his return to Buenos Aires in the early 1990s, he created a series of collages to illustrate the official report about the disappearance of Argentineans during that period.
In the last years of his life León Ferrari’s work was widely exhibited internationally and in Argentina. His retrospective of 2004 at the Recoleta Cultural Center in Buenos Aires earned him world-wide attention when the exhibition was closed and after reopened by the Buenos Aires Government. In 2006 he was a Special Guest at the São Paulo Biennale and in 2007 he was awarded the Golden Lion at the 52nd International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennial. In 2009 his work was the object of a large retrospective alongside Mira Schendel at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA). He died in 2013 and is remembered as one of the most controversial artists of his lifetime and a pioneer for conceptual art.
Selected solo shows:
2014. La donación Ferrari, Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2012. León Ferrari – Brailles y relecturas de la Biblia, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) – Constantini Collection, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2011. León Ferrari, Museo del Banco de la República de Bogotá, Colombia.
2010. Re-encontres, Église Sainte Anne, Arles, France.
2009. León Ferrari: 40 Years of Work, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX, United States.
2008. León Ferrari.Obras 1976-2008, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico.
2008. León Ferrari. Antológica, Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino, Ciudad de Rosario, Argentina.
2006. Revisiting Tautology, Pan American Art Projects, Miami, FLO, United States.
2006. León Ferrari, A Relentless Critique of Power, University Gallery, University of Essex, Essex, UK.
2006. Retrospectiva León Ferrari, Pinacoteca do Estado do São Paulo, Brazil.
2005. Escrito en el Aire, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Neuquén, Argentina.
2004. Retrospective León Ferrari, obras 1954-2004, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2004. Instrumentos para dibujar sonidos, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) – Constantini Collection, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2004. Politiscripts, The Drawing Center, New York, NY, United States.
Awards and Pirzes:
2007. Golden Lion, 52nd International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy.
2006. Critics Grand Prize, São Paulo Association of Art Critics, Brazil.
1998. Life Achivement Award, São Paulo Association of Art Critics, Brazil.
1997. Medal, Grandmothers de the Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
1995. J. S. Guggenheim Fellowship, New York, NY, United States.
1983. Prize, Critics Asociation of São Pablo, Brazil
1981. Etching Prize, IV Graphic Arts American Bienal, Cali, Colombia.
1979. Sculpture Prize, Salão de Arte de Riberão Preto, Brazil.