Today is not the eve of any day. It is a day when we lost León Ferrari, one of the most honest, creative and fruitful artists of our time. His Argentine citizenship is stamped on his passport, but he also felt Brazilian. When we first met, I soon discovered that we had a lot in common. We were planted in soil fertilized by the thirst for social justice, against arbitrary church attitudes and against military dictatorships. His poetics, loaded with questions, felt free to err with some provisional truths and many definitive certainties. León had a philosophy of life that reflected in his work as a turning point in the insistence on earthly and “divine” life, filled with heretical and agnostic positions. For this reason, some wanted to silence his art, but it is stronger and more universal, so much so that it was recognized worldwide when it was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2007.
History shows how some countries were culturally enriched with the immigration of politically persecuted intellectuals and artists to their homeland. Displacement rebuilds our place in the world, and often makes us grow and improve the society that welcomed us. Brazilian art gained a lot with the presence of León Ferrari, multimedia artist, poet and political activist. León arrived in São Paulo fleeing his country's military dictatorship. The March 24, 1976 coup, carried out by the Junta das Forças Armadas Argentinas, had several objectives in mind, such as removing President Maria Estela, widow of General Perón, and promoting the hunt for both the Marxist and the Peronist left.
León Ferrari transcended, in human grandeur, any of his works. To paraphrase Hanna Arendt, what saves really great gifts is that those who bear this burden remain superior to what they did, at least as long as the source of creativity is alive. Ferrari worked vertiginously in his studio in the São Paulo neighborhood of Vila Madalena, alternating trips to Buenos Aires in search of his son and daughter-in-law, who disappeared during the Argentine dictatorship. His production, differentiated and provocative, denounced a living creator who naturally incorporated himself into the production of Brazilian art, being invited as such to several exhibitions of contemporary art. Before arriving in São Paulo, he was involved in politics and, more than that, political art. In Brazil his work grew even more and without concessions.
During the period he lived in São Paulo between 1976 and 1991, he returned to abstract steel sculptures from the early 1960s. Restless, he navigated all waters and experimented with various techniques and media such as xerox, videotext, mail art, microfiche , artist books, heliography, use of the letter-set and sound installations. We're talking about the 80's, when he started the series of Bible Readings, Brazil was experiencing the end of its political dictatorship, and he continued to make his bitter criticisms.
León was not immune to the impact that Brazilian popular culture and religious syncretism had on his art. A critic of the role of the Catholic Church, he said that Dante, Pisano and Bosch, for example, were certainly responsible for the imagery of hell and its central character, the devil.
Without ever laying down his arms against the dictatorship, upon returning to Buenos Aires he began a series of collages that were published in 1995/96 in the Argentine newspaper Page/12, accompanied by lists of political disappeared, victims of the Argentine military regime. The works mix dictatorship, Nazism and the Church.