The Pinacoteca de São Paulo, museum of the Secretaria de Cultura e Economia Criativa (Secretary of Culture and Creative Economy) of the state of São Paulo, presents, from 26th October, 2019 until 24th February, 2020, the exhibition León Ferrari: Nós não sabíamos [We Did Not Know], which brings together fifty works, belonging to the museum, by the Argentinian. Organized by the Núcleo de Curadoria e Pesquisa (Curation and Research Centre) of Pinacoteca, the show will take place in room C, adjacent to the room exhibiting Pinacoteca’s collection of 19th Century Brazilian art, and emphasises the political aspect that characterised Ferrari’s production, charged with scathing criticisms of art institutions, political systems and the contemporary morality of the 1960’s and 1970’s. This is the first time the museum has exhibited two complete series from its collection of works by the artist, who died in 2013.
León Ferrari is one of the most renowned Latin American artists worldwide. He was acclaimed at the 2007 Venice Biennale, receiving the Golden Lion that year in recognition of his work. In his artistic practice, he makes use of different languages, such as sculpture, drawing, calligraphy, collage, installation and video. This diverse set of practices, and the themes covered in his work, reveal both his identity as a researcher and activist, and his preoccupation with the aesthetic investigation of language, questioning the Western world and the power and uniformity that dictate the values of religion, art, justice and the state. Repetition, irony and the literal are also resources for his poetics, recognisable in his earliest works.
In the 1960’s, Ferrari’s drawings and sculptures were imbued with a questioning of the ethics of religion, and by the denunciation of Imperialism. In 1976, a military coup forced the artist and his family to leave Buenos Aires and to move to São Paulo, where they remained until the 1990’s. During his time in Brazil, Ferrari integrated himself in the local experimental circuit, becoming involved with processes of language revitalisation, through the production of heliographs, photocopies and mail art. Upon returning to Argentina, the artist continued to produce politically engaged works of art, questioning the disappearances that occurred during the Military Dictatorship.
For this exhibition, the Pinacoteca presents two series, which the artist donated to the museum, from a set of 33 works donated at the time of his exhibition Poéticas e políticas, 1954-2006, curated by Andrea Giunta, which took place at the institution in 2006. This process of donation continued into a second stage, in 2008 – when further works were added to the set – and was completed in 2014, through the artist’s granddaughter, Anna Ferrari, one year after his death. Valéria Piccoli, chief-curator at the Pinacoteca, comments: “The series exhibited here were never shown in their entirety. They all start from one mode of working, namely the artist’s intervention on the pages of vehicles of communication. Ferrari explores the narrative power of images, interfering in them as a means of potentializing the messages they convey”.
The first series, Nosotros no sabíamos [We Did Not Know], 2007, is part of a set of works started in 1976, when the artist began to cut from journalistic articles denouncing the appearances, in various areas in Buenos Aires and along the cost of Rio de La Plata, of the bodies of those who disappeared after the Argentinian military coup. In these works, the cut-outs were put back together, in the form of a book. The title of the series, which gives this exhibition its name, comes from the “we did not know” attitude, the defence used by a part of the population during that era to justify their indifference to the terrorism practiced by the State between 1976 and 1983.
The series Nunca Más (Never Again) 2006 refers to editions of a publication of the same name, published in the newspaper Página 12 (Buenos Aires, Argentina), between 1995 and 1996. The result of the artist’s work was the production of the covers of these editions. Attached to the editions was a report prepared in 1984 by the Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de las Personas – CONADEP, which contained lists of the names of those who disappeared during the country’s period of dictatorship. The cited publications, which gave rise to the work, were published between 1995 and 1996, and were reprinted by the same newspaper, Página 12, with new works, in 2006. The date used by the Pinacoteca refers to the date in which the most recent media was printed.
Also part of the exhibition is the work Primera carta al Papa, 2007, and L’Osservatore Romano, 2007, 43 digital prints on paper, which refer to an official newspaper of the same name, made by the Vatican, whose first issue dates back to 1861, and whose goal is to counter slander against the Pontificate, as well as to reinstate the principles of, amongst others, the Catholic Church and justice, ideas often laden with political bias. An avowed critic of the Catholic Church, and especially of the Argentinian Catholic Church, Ferrari selected editions between the years 2000 and 2001, making connections between the publication’s headlines and diverse images and illustrations relating to the history of the Catholic religion, reproducing, above all, images of sinners and punishments, erotic images, and even contemporary images relating to Nazism and the Argentine dictatorship.
ABOUT LEÓN FERRARI
León Ferrari was born in 1920 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and died in the same city in 2013. Recent solo shows include: Prosa política de León Ferrari, Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino (MJBC), Rosario, Argentina (2019); León Ferrari. Palabras ajenas, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico (2018); The Words of Others: León Ferrari and Rhetoric in Times of War, Pérez Art Museum (PAMM), Miami (2018); Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) and Los Angeles, United States (2017).
The artist participated in numerous group shows, with highlights including Words/Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton, Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas, Austin, United States (2019); Géométries Américaines, du Mexique à la Terre de Feu, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris, France (2018); Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met Breuer), New York, United States (2017); International Pop, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, United States (2015); Encuentros/Tensiones, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2013), amongst others.
His works are included in collections such as the Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zurich, Switzerland; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina; Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM Rio), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, United States; and the Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom.
León Ferrari: Nós não sabíamos [We Did Not Know]
Curated by the Núcleo de Curadoria e Pesquisa (Curation and Research Centre)
Opening: 26th October 2019, Saturday, 11am
Open for Visitation: 26th October 2019 until 24th February 2020.
Wednesdays to Sundays, from 10am until 6 pm – visitors may stay inside until 6pm.
Parental rating: 12 years
Pinacoteca de São Paulo:
Pina Luz building
Praça da Luz 2, São Paulo, SP – Room C, 2nd Floor
Tickets: R$ 15.00 (entrance); R$ 7.00 (concessions for student card holders)
Children under 10 years of persons aged 60+ enter free of charge.
On Saturdays, entrance to Pina is free for all.