León Ferrari - Latin America New York Thursday, May 23, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    By descent to the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Recognized as a foundational figure in Latin American conceptualism, Ferrari’s art has always escaped classification. Like a true conceptualist, his main concern lies in visually rendering his ideas through forms and images, experimenting with countless different mediums and techniques. Throughout the course of his 60-year career, he has dedicated himself to finding different ways of communicating new messages, or of communicating the same messages in new ways. He continuously defies the limits of his materials, resulting in arresting works that radiate both intellect and emotion, employing his own unique visual vocabulary.

    “Communication” is the operative term when describing Ferrari’s conceptual approach and body of work. His art largely deals with the necessity and urgency of communicating, and he tests the limits of our ability to do so. The concept of language figures prominently in his work, seeking to expose the tensions between restraint and expression that define human interaction. This interest harkens back to Ferrari’s experience during Argentina’s violent political repression in the 1970s. Communication patterns around him were breaking down, limiting the traditional role of language in daily public and private affairs. Ferrari thus became intimately aware of language’s defining role in social and political behavior. He began to create drawings that upon first glance look like handwriting on a page, but upon closer inspection reveal nothing but frustrated lines and unintelligible forms. He subverted language’s reputation for clarity, prompting his viewers to question whether pure communication is ever truly possible. Ferrari has dedicated much of his artistic career to investigating the limits and powers of human means of communication, seeking to understand their destructive and poetic potential.

    Forced to escape the political violence at home, Ferrari moved to São Paulo in 1976. He managed to make himself at home amidst the avant-garde artistic community of the city, and he developed collaborative relationships with local artists. They experimented with found objects, print-making, technical reproduction, collages, and assemblages, among countless other devices and materials. His interest in the exploration of new processes and technologies grew, and it fostered a vibrant creative atmosphere that yielded some of his most inspired sculptural and mixed-media works.

    The present lot, created during the artist’s exile in São Paulo, emerges from this concept of disorder and language as both lyrical and repressive. In Untitled, Ferrari confronts us with an epic scene of form in conflict. We see countless lines intersecting with one another, casting intricate shadows that expand the geometric aggression beyond the confines of the sculpture. We can almost hear the strident collisions amidst the visual intricacy. These lines can result in nothing but cacophony, and yet their formal assemblage in space renders them capable of great aesthetic beauty. Ferrari thereby convinces us that there can be great poetry in dissonance. He has succeeded in maintaining a continuous tension between form and content, captivating his viewers’ eyes and minds through elaborate designs and multilayered meanings. His art oscillates between seduction and violence, between beauty and disarray. Emblematic of his work in sculpture, the present lot exemplifies Ferrari’s ability to forge lyricism out of chaos.

  • Artist Biography

    León Ferrari

    Argentinian • 1920 - 2013

    León Ferrari was a defining figure in Argentine conceptual art. He was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, among other prestigious awards. During his youth, Ferrari began creating artworks while studying Engineering in Rome. Returning to Buenos Aires, he began to create art that dealt with heavy subjects such as inequality, power and discrimination, championing a sense of urgency to understand the destructive and poetic potential of these societal issues.

    One particularly controversial work, La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana (Western Christian Civilization), was exhibited in 1965 and promptly censured by the Catholic Church, as the sculpture features a store-bought Jesus figure crucified to a U.S. fighter jet. However, Ferrari is probably best known for his "written drawings" that feature compositions of abstracted handwriting created in various mediums, conveying emotion and visual poetry.

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welded steel
15 3/4 x 8 x 8 in. (40 x 20.3 x 20.3 cm.)
Signed and dated "LEON FERRARI 1979" lower edge.

$70,000 - 90,000 

Contact Specialist
Henry Allsopp
Worldwide Director, Latin American Art
+ 1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York 23 May 2013 4pm