Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An Argentine Artist's War on Hypocrisy

Anyone visiting New York up until mid-June should not miss the opportunity to see the Museum of Modern Art’s “Tangled Alphabets” exhibition on Argentine sculptor León Ferrari’s work, along with that of the late Brazilian artist Mira Schendel. Ferrari, who is nearly 90 years old, is an iconoclast whose notorious “Western and Christian Civilization” (pictured here) protested the bombing of Vietnam in 1965 by depicting Christ crucified on a diving F-105.
In 2004, at the Centro Cultural Recoleta, a 50-year retrospective of Ferrari’s work (which has criticized the Catholic Church for torture and abuse) briefly closed following a lawsuit by the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and a subsequent court order. After protests and government action allowed the exhibition to reopen, Ferrari couldn’t have hoped for better publicity, as attendance broke all records.

Shortly after that, I met Ferrari in his Retiro apartment when I needed a permission signature to be able to publish a photograph of “Western and Christian Civilization” in the second edition of Moon Handbooks Argentina. Despite his ferocious iconoclasm, and his obvious resentment toward his Catholic upbringing, Ferrari is a soft-spoken individual who seemed genuinely flattered that I would include coverage of his work in a guidebook. Before I left, he presented me with an autographed booklet of his poems.

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