Born in 1920 in Buenos Aires, Ferrari studied engineering before turning to a career in art. His polarizing work, known for its explicit and provocative content, has incited riots, protests and legal action, and even led to a 14-year exile spent in Brazil in 1977. When Mr. Ferrari returned to his homeland in 1991, he renewed his focus on injustice, with a particular focus on how the powerful invoke divine support. In 2013, León Ferrari died in his birth place of Buenos Aires.
León Ferrari's artistic practice encompassed the media of painting, collage, sculpture, poetry, and printmaking. Known internationally for his often-provocative social and political critiques, Ferrari made work that was highly critical of war, social inequality, discrimination (sexual, religious, and ideological), and abuse of power. Referencing postwar movements like Abstract Expressionism, Fluxus, Arte Povera, Minimalism, Process art, and appropriation art, his work comprises wood, ceramic, and wire sculptures, mobiles, drawings, collages, and paintings. An engineer who came to drawing via sculpture, Ferrari explores language as a visual material in his “written drawings,” which use symbols and the gestures of handwriting to convey emotion.
Despite difficulty getting his work shown at home, Ferrari has been the subject of major international exhibitions including a joint retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art with Brazil’s Mira Schendel (2009) and a solo show at the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City (2008). He was also awarded the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2007) and the Diamond Award from Argentina’s Konex Foundation (2012). His work has been collected in major institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (MALBA). At the time of his death, Ferrari was also working on a Guggenheim Fellowship focused on themes of sex and violence in Christian art.