Curated by Alexis Fabry in collaboration with The Fundacion Agusto y León Ferrari
Opening reception: Saturday September 13, from 6-8pm
Josée Bienvenu is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by León Ferrari. The exhibition includes twenty-three unique vintage photographs from the 1970s and the 1980s. We are honored to introduce this exceptional body of work to the public for the first time.
León Ferrari (1920 - 2013) is considered among the most significant artists working in Latin America during the second half of the twentieth century. Born in Buenos Aires, Ferrari studied electrical engineering before becoming one of the foremost pioneers of conceptual art in Argentina. Known for his provocative social and political critiques, Ferrari made work that was highly critical of war, the Catholic Church, social inequality, discrimination, and the abuse of power.
Successively and simultaneously, Ferrari experimented with various media. He gathered a series of experiences that he would translate into sculpture, etching, writing, painting, drawing, music, collage, and installation. The abstract and the figurative, the political and the formal spheres, coexisted naturally in his practice: “I do what occurs to me; it is like life, sometimes you go out for a drink, sometimes you go to the cemetery.”*
In 1976, fleeing the military regime in Argentina, Ferrari emigrated to São Paulo, where he stayed until 1991. Moving into a spacious workshop, he returned to the semi-abstract aesthetics of the early 1960s, making sculptural works of great complexity with intertwined iron rods. Several of these major sculptures were gathered in Tangled Alphabets: León Ferrari and Mira Schendel, at the Museum of Modern Art in 2009.
Photography, omnipresent in his work in the form of newspaper collages, or as a support for his Braille poems, was an element he would often incorporate into the work. However, Ferrari's more direct and personal investigation of the medium itself has remained unseen until now. Over two decades, he produced a corpus of nearly abstract photographs portraying his own steel sculptures. The relatively small scale black-and-white prints document relationships between lines and negative space. Ferrari’s joy in portraying them is obvious in the carefully calibrated framing and lighting, in the subtlety of the gradations of grey. It is rare to have a record of an artist looking at his own work. Ferrari's photographs capture his wandering through the infinite webs of his sculptures. They reveal intimate angles through soft and sharp focus, and become a testimony to his way of approaching and relating to his own practice.
León Ferrari’s work has been widely exhibited internationally. In 2007, he was awarded the Golden Lion at the 52nd Venice Biennial. selected exhibitions include: León Ferrari: Brailles y relecturas de la Biblia, MALBA, Buenos Aires (2012); Tangled Alphabets: León Ferrari and Mira Schendel, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009); León Ferrari: Obras, 1976-2008, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City (2008); Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2004); Retrospective León Ferrari, obras 1954-2004, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires (2004); Heterotopias: Medio siglo sin lugar, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2000); Cantos Paralelos, Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin (1999); Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s, Queens Museum of Art, New York (1999). His work is included in prominent public and private collections including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Reina Sofia, Madrid; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Buenos Aires; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo de Arte de São Paulo; Museo de Arte Moderno de Rio de Janeiro; Daros Latinamerica, Zurich; the Cisneros Collection; Tate Modern, London; The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Arts, Austin.
*Interview with Celia Sredni de Birbragher, ArtNexus #67 - Arte en Colombia #113 Dec - Feb 2008