León Ferrari (Buenos Aires, 1920) and Mira Schendel (Zürich, Switzerland, 1919 - Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1988), are two of the twentieth century's most preeminent Latin American artists. El alfabeto enfurecido: León Ferrari y Mira Schendel (The Frenzied Alphabet: León Ferrari and Mira Schendel) is the first retrospective exhibition of their work in Spain. Without meeting one another, Ferrari and Schendel work in Argentina and Brazil respectively, both converging through their work as they advocate the presence of language as visual material and content. In contrast to conceptual artists, who focus on the ideal leading role of language, Ferrari and Schendel do not use this language in their works to produce art as an idea, but rather to express its particular materiality, employing it as a physical medium that can be moulded and sculpted.
Throughout his career, Ferrari addresses a far-reaching repertoire of artistic mediums, from sculpture, drawing, painting and engraving to sound and film. During a stint in Italy in the Fifties, he produces ceramic sculptures with aesthetic ties to the European Abstraction of the time. Upon his return to Argentina, and before realising his works on paper, he begins producing a significant number of wire sculptures with organic and gestural forms that at times seem like abstractions, or approaches to either legible or indecipherable alphabets. Later, and convinced that the artist must be ethically committed, Ferrari combines his formal avant-garde interests with a more political and confrontational kind of art.
Born in Zurich, Schendel moves with her family to Italy when she is still a child, finally emigrating to Brazil at the end of the Second World War. It was there that she begins her artistic output, starting out as a ceramicist and then subsequently as a painter. At the beginning of the Sixties, Schendel produces a considerable number of works on paper, applying unprecedented techniques that convey her interest in written gesture and her search for transparency within the subject matter. A the end of the decade, she produces three-dimensional work by using paper as a support for abstract sculptures with multi-coloured forms and a complex accumulation of signs and writings on transparent acrylic supports. Until her death in 1988, Schendel maintained a kind of ethical sensibility in her art, conceiving it as one of the most radical expressions of the human condition.
The exhibition offers a new interpretation of the visual constructions of language both artists executed and an analysis of the links and confrontations that exist between visual art, written words and the social world.
The Museum of Modern Art MoMA, New York (April 5, 2009 - June 15, 2009); Fundaçao Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre (April 08 - July 11, 2010)
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