Often Overlooked – León Ferrari

            Those who are familiar with artist León Ferrari tend to know him based on the injustices he has endured throughout his career – whether it be political censorship or simple the fact that he (along with many other Latin American artists) was long overlooked in favor of modernist painters from America and Europe. Yet the status of many South American artists in the art market has greatly improved throughout the last decade. Acting on the relatively recent praise of MOMA and The Tate, investors and art collectors are scrambling to acquire pieces from the now 92-year old artist’s portfolio before he is unable to produce any more work.

[Untitled] 1977; Ink on paper; 24″ x 16 1/4″

            But all art exploitation speculation aside, Ferrari’s work has become synonymous with social criticism and political protest. Yet while most are content to talk about conceptual backing in art, it seems few step back to simply appreciate the sensory qualities of the works at hand. Ferrari is an artist who requires both sorts of appreciation from his viewers. It is imperative to discuss and debate the meaning behind his work, but it is equally as important to enjoy his execution.

            Of all the aesthetic qualities throughout Ferrari’s portfolio, his relationship with line is particularly striking. There is a great diversity throughout his line-based drawings and prints. The pieces are all unified by approach, but differ in terms of character.

 For example, the violent and frenzied scratching in his “Escritura” 1976 starkly contrasts his untitled drawing of the same year (both pictured below). The latter piece evokes a sense of music, both in it’s overall resemblance to score sheets and the fluid, dance-like swaying of the line.

“Escritura” 1976; Ink on paper; 18 1/4″ x 13″

[Untitled] 1976; Ink on paper; 19 3/4″ x 113 1/2″

 Conversely, the following untitled piece from 1963 not only recalls both pictographic and hieroglyphic scripts, but also investigates a synthesis of the two.

[Untitled] 1963; Ink on paper; 18 3/4″ x 12 1/4″

   His scribbles on polystyrene evoke a Cy Twombly-esque energy, only to be revisited on the surface of a three-dimensional plexiglass cube in 1999.

[Untitled] (date unknown); Graphite on Polystyrene; 19 1/4″ x 13″

“Prism” 1999; Ink on Plexi; 23 5/8″ x 7 7/8″ x 7 7/8″

     Though it is merely a small facet of an overall artistic ability, the variety by which Ferrari employs line offers a sound insight into his approach. As his better known, politically-charged pieces demonstrate, there are always different perspectives on a given idea or issue; even those as mundane as line.

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