He was born in Buenos Aires in l920. He is autodidact in arts. Due to family matters, he travelled to Italy in l952 and started working in art in Rome in l955. That year he made his first one man exhibition in Milan and he came back to Argentina. He made sculptures with different types of materials: ceramics, plaster, cement, wood and finally with stainless steel wires.
In l959 he produced the medium-length film “Primera Fundación de Buenos Aires”, written and directed by Fernando Birri, about a drawing of Oski. This film got 3 national prizes (best medium - length film, direction and music) and it represented Argentina at the Festival of Cannes in l959.
In l962, during his second trip to Italy he started making his written drawings when Arturo Schwarz invited him to be part of the edging-collection “Antología internazionale dell’incisione contemporánea” - published by the Galería Schwarz, in Milan, l962. In l964 Vanni Scheiwiller published in Milan the book “Escrito en el Aire”, with poetries written by Rafael Alberti and drawings made by L.F.
After 4 one-man exhibitions in Buenos Aires, he was invited to take part at the l965-Di Tella prize. He presented 4 works which critizised the American agression in Vietnam. One of them, “La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana”, an image of a crucified Christ - bought at a shop selling religious images - on an American bomber, was rejected. The newspaper La Prensa strongly critisized the works which were still shown at the exhibition - the a.m. newspaper said that these were not art-works. LF answered that he was not worried about the fact that they were art-works or not, he just wanted to express his ideas regarding the Western world as efficiently as possible. This principle, which since then has been a guide-line for almost all his work - was supported by his essay “El arte de los significados”, which he read at the meetings held before the exhibition “Tucumán Arde”, l968.
After the Di Tella-exhibition he stopped working and just made some political works which were shown at colective exhibitions. He took part in the organization of “Homenaje al Vietnam”/l966 (the biggest colective political exhibition held in our country), “Tucumán Arde”/l968, “Malvenido Rockefeller”/l969, etc. At that time he made a literary collage, “Palabras Ajenas” about the Vietnam war (a parallel between Johnson, Hitler and the Christian gods). This work was published by the author in l966 (some mimeograph-copies) and by Falbo in l967. Leopoldo Mahler showed this play in London in l968, it was called “Listen Here Now”. Pedro Asquini introduced it in Buenos Aires in l973. Between l967 and 1970 he wrote the essay “Paul VI and Vietnam”. Between l972 and l976 he took part at the “Foro por los Derechos Humanos” and the “Movimiento contra la Represión y la Tortura”.
Due to political reasons he left the country in l976 and settled down in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There he once again took up his work with metal sculptures and made different experiences involving photocopies, mail art, heliography, microchips, video texts, books of artists, etc. During l980/82 he made big maps, using Letraset-letters - a system used by architects - which were reproduced in heliographies. He developed different musical instruments (which he used for different performances), and which Conrado Silva used to compose his “Variaciones para vástagos metálicos”. Between l980 and l984 he published some books with drawings and collages (editions by the author of around 100/200 copies): “Hombres”, “Cuadro Escrito”, “Imagens”, etc.
In l983 he took up again the political-religious subject: he made hundreds of collages in which he mixed the catholic iconography, the oriental erotic and contemporary images, where he showed the behaviour of the biblical gods and the contemporary consequences of the violence inside the Holy Scripture. In l985 he published “La Basílica”, a literary and images collage; in l986 “Parahereges”, an images collage and in l989 “Bíblia”, drawings for the Holy Scripture. He has 5 unpublished volumes with 250 colour-collages, also critical drawings from the Bible.
He has been living in Buenos Aires since l991 where he continues working about the subject of art and Christianity and is also making pastel drawings and other drawings which Noé Jitrik calls the a r c h e o l o g y o f t h e s i g n. Besides he held several speeches about religious subjects: “Conquista y Religion”, IV Jornadas de Teoría e Historia de las Artes, Buenos Aires l992; “Jesús y el antisemitismo cristiano”, “Congreso América 92, Raizes e Trajetorias”, USP, Sao Paulo, Brazil, l992; and “Sexo y Violencia en la iconografía cristiana”, which was prepared for the seminar “Arte y Violencia” of the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas of the UNAM, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In l993 he published the literary collage “Exégesis”.
In l994 he made several works with mannequins. He covered their bodies with holy and secular images as well as manuscripts of Bible texts, poems written by Borges, etc. At present he is finishing - with the aid of a Guggenheim scholarship - his study about sex and violence in Christian art, which he introduced at the seminar in Mexico. He is illustrating with collages the fascicules of the book “Nunca Más” of the CONADEP edited by the newspaper Página 12.
One of the characteristics of Leon Ferrari’s work is the use of press work, either copied as part of the a.m. literary collages (Palabras Ajenas, La Bas[ilica and Exégesis) or direcly included in drawings or collage-images. Some newspaper excerpts were used in l964 for the manuscript “Swish and Swallow”, which was published in the book “Cuadro Escrito”. Said book also includes a manuscript-copy of two newspaper commentaries. Newspaper excerpts were used in “Cristo Murió”, one of the works shown at the Di Tella that year. In l968 at the exhibition “Tucumán Arde”, where he introduced photograph-copies of hundreds of newspaper news about the conflicts which took place in that province. In l976, the news compilation about the repression in the book “Nosotros no Sabíamos”. In l989, in the work “El Proceso” shown at a retrospective exhibition at the Museo Sívori. In l993, in a collage “Complicidades” (100 cm x 200 cm), with news about the collaboration of the Church with the military dictatorship, shown at the exhibition “Horror Urbano”. In l994 in “Causas y Consecuencias”, photocopies of printed material with images of the Third Reich sticked to a Christ made of plaster. In l995 newsaper pieces were used in the drawings for “Nunca Más”.
L.F. has also held some short debates:
In l965 with the newspaper La Prensa about the works which were exhibited at the Premio Di Tella of that year. In l982 with the Italian Embassy in Argentina because they were not willing to publish the names of hundreds of Italian citizens who dissapeared during the military dictatorship. In l991 with the Asociación Argentina Protectora de los Animales (Argentine Institution for Animal Rights). Said institution wanted the removal of LF’s work “La Justicia” (Justice), shown at a colective exhibition at the museo Sívori. The work showed a hen in a cage which defecated on a scale. In l993 with Cardinal Antonio Quarracino who said that an exhibition of erotic art was garbage. In l995 with the publisher Manrique Zago because of the book “De Dios, el Hombre y la Vida”, which was introduced at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes by Cardinal Quarracino, a close collaborator of the military dictatorship. Also in l995 with the General Secretary of the Army, General Bossi, as said general criticized one of the collages of “Nunca Más” which showed a nazi eagle over the Military School.
Prize for sculpture at the Salao de Arte de Riberao Preto, Brazil, l979.
Prize for printing at the IV Bienal Americana de Artes Gráficas, Cali, Colombia l981.
Honourable Mention at the Bienal de La Habana, l984
Prize of the Asociación de Críticos de Sao Paulo for the best exhibition of l983
Guggenheim scholarship l995.
Following museums and institutions have works of Leon Ferrari: in Buenos Aires:Museo Sívori, Museo de Arte Moderno, Fondo Nacional de las Artes, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo del Grabado and the Nagel, Helft and Giesso collections.
The Museum Carrillo Gil and the Modern Art Museum of Mexico.
La Tertulia Museum of Cali, Colombia.
The Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro/Brazil.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil: Modern Art Museum, Art Museum of Sao Paulo, Brazilian Art Museum, State’s Art gallery, Museum for Contemporary Art of the USP,
In La Habana:La Casa de las Américas, Centro Wilfredo Lam
Salvador Allende Museum in Chile
Franklin Furnace and the Bronx Museum in New York
Ruth and Marvin Sackner Collection in Miami
Arturo Scharz collection in Milan, etc.
Publications by L.Ferrari
“Escrito en el Aire”, Poems by Rafael Alberti with drawings made by Leon Ferrari, Vanni Scheiwiller, Milan, l964
“Palabras Ajenas”, literary collage: (first version was mimeographed, l966) Falbo Editor, Buenos Aires, l967.
“Nosotros no sabíamos”, collection of newspaper records about the repression in l976, edited by the author, l976-94.
“Hombres”, collages made with Letraset, published by the author (Ediciones Licopodio), Buenos Aires, l984.
“Cuadro Escrito”, manuscripts, published by the author (Ediciones Licopodio), Buenos Aires, l984.
“La Basílica”, literary and images-collage, published by the author (Edicoes Exu), Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“Parahereges”, collages with Duerer-prints and oriental erotic images, Editora Expressao, Sao Paulo, l986.
“Bíblia”, collages which illustrate verses from the Bible, published by the author (Edicoes Exu), Sao Paulo, l989.
“Imagens”, drawings and collages of l979 and l981, introduced by José Teixeira Coelho, published by the author (Edicoes Exu), Sao Paulo, l989.
“Exégesis”, literary collage, published by the author (Edicoes Exu), Buenos Aires, l993.
Artist’s books: Labirinto, Xadrez, Poesías, El Camisón, and others.
Letter to La Prensa in response to a critic to his works, Propósitos 10/7/65
“La Obediencia Debida es una Ley Cristiana”, Crisis No 66, November l988
“Conquista y Religión”, IV Jornadas de Teoría e Historia de las Artes: “Las Artes en el Debate del Quinto Centenario”, October l992, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires.
“Jesús y el antisemitismo cristiano”, lecture for the Congress “América 92, raizes e trajetorias”at the University of Sao Paulo in August l992.
“Sobre Justicias y Preservativos”, catalogue for exhibition in Giesso, l992, published in Página 12 - 6/9/92.
“Arte y Poder”, lecture at the Centro Cultural Rojas - meeting with artists, l993. V Congress about Theory and Art History, Art and Power, at the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras of the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Published in the Diario de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Decembre l993.
Letter to Cardinal Quarracino, 3/26/93, as a responce to his critics regarding the colective exhibition “Erotizarte”. Published in El Libertino, año I, No 7, l993.
“Muerte de Ricardo Carreira”, Página 12, 8/31/93
“Sexo y violencia en la iconografía cristiana”, lecture at the XVIII Coloquio Internacional de Historia del Arte, Arte y Violencia, organized by the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in November l994.
“Vidrios estallados y chicos vendidos”, introduction to the exhibition of Oscar Bony in Filo, l994, La Voz del Bajo, August l994.
“Una Iglesia para Buenos Aires”, Projeto Babel, Sao Paulo, Brazil, l995.
“Sobre sexo, SIDA y censura”, Página 12, 3/28/95.
“Biblia y Proceso”, controvercy about the book “De Dios, el Hombre y la Vida”, Página 12, 4/25, 5/9, 5/23, and 5/30/95.
“Imágenes del Nunca Más”, answer to a critic made by the General Secretary of the Army, General Ernesto J. Bossi, against some of the drawings made for Nunca Más. Página 12, 10/19/95.
“El arte de los significados”, lecture held before the exhibition “Tucumán Arde” in August l968.
“Paulo VI y El Vietnam”, essay about the complicity of the Vatican with the U.S.A. in Vietnam. l966/70.
“Relecture of the Bible”, l984-l990, 5 volumes with around 250 colour-collages about stories of the Bible.
“Paraherejes II”, 50 collages, black and white. Second part of “Parahereges”, published in Brazil.
Letter to the Sociedad Argentina Protectora de los Animales (12/3/91) answering the request of the a.m. society regarding the work “La Justicia” where they asked Leon Ferrari to take away the chicken which was part of the work.