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León Ferrari

Press release

León Ferrari – Toasted Angels, Sounds of Steel

Earthworms are making themselves at home in the White House. They wiggle their way into the Oval Office and the private apartments, dangle from the flagpole on the roof, smear the star-spangled banner with their slime. Yuck. Sweet. Our exhibition opens with the video Casa Blanca, created in 2005. The desecration of a proud symbol? The defilement of an icon? Blasphemy? Whatever was León Ferrari thinking?

Ferrari did what he could. What he couldn’t do he didn’t. That sounds more banal than it is. For what Ferrari did was closely bound up with the political developments since the 1950s, for which he time and again found his own language, with the means at his disposal. A language—several languages—that breached the confines of the private sphere to go public and tell stories of war and tyranny, harassment, and freedom. Ferrari's artistic career began in 1955, the first year of the Vietnam War. For six decades, he traced the history of Western civilization as a history of globalized institutional violence. When León Ferrari died in his hometown of Buenos Aires in 2013 at the age of 93, he had long since become one of the great international voices of the Latin American continent.

KOW presents a selective overview of his influential oeuvre, which has received too little attention in Germany. Even a cursory glance reveals that Ferrari had an axe to grind with the Catholic Church. His most famous and surely most controversial piece, La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana (1965), shows a painted-wood Jesus figure crucified to the replica of an American fighter jet from the Vietnam War. The work got him in trouble with the government, the Vatican, museums, but in the end it prevailed. We present previously unpublished collages from the 1980s which follow on from La Civilizacíon … The works from the cycle Relecturas de la Biblia may provoke strong feelings even today: Nazi terror meets Catholic propaganda, combat tanks and long-range missiles protected by angels, the clergy at the Vatican contemplating the Holocaust as though it were a Last Judgment with God’s blessing, regimes of military and religious power hand in hand in the same picture. A hell on earth—forged of steel tubes, cyanide, and glorioles.