Herbert Ferber: Sculpture as metaphor for an idea

14 February - 30 April 2019

Lorenzelli Arte resumes the 2018/2019 exhibition season with a line of research aiming to draw attention to names that despite presence in the collections of the world’s most important museums, are at times incomprehensibly undervalued, and in doing so, present these names for further critical and public consideration and study. The name examined in the solo exhibition opening on Thursday February 14th is that of Herbert Ferber (1906-1991), an internationally renowned artist and leading abstract expressionist sculptor who was active in the fervent New York of the 1940s and 1950s.

In 1988, Lorenzelli Arte hosted the first solo exhibition in Italy of Herbert Ferber at the gallery’s previous Via Sant'Andrea location. Today the artist's works will be shown in the rooms of Corso Buenos Aires 2, creating the rare opportunity in Italy to admire a master whose works can be found in the collections of the MoMa, the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, and the Center George Pompidou in Paris, among others.


The exhibition features twenty sculptures and thirty drawings made between 1952 and 1985, the period of the American sculptor’s full creative maturity, giving the Italian public the opportunity to appreciate the artistic apex of an important member of the New York School, the group of American artists who pioneered Abstract Expressionism in the years following World War II. That group consisted of many of America’s most important artists including Ferber’s close friend Mark Rothko, to whom he was bound by common beliefs in art and politics. Ferber showed a steady interest in classical mythology and the unconscious and explored archetypal and timeless forms. He did so according to typical paths of the New York School, a true trigger point of the cosmopolitan, aggressive “new tradition”, which despite various roots was an authentically American identity.


"Sculpture as a metaphor for an Idea", the exhibition's title, represents a principle dear to Ferber according to which sculpture must have the capacity to embody a lucid and strong mental process and therefore possess a metaphorical value that conveys abstract ideals. His sculptures beginning in the 1950s, after having completely abandoned figuration, are made up of familiar shapes that are then elaborated upon until the compositions become almost unrecognizable.

Ferber transforms the formal elements into plastic qualities, connoted as considerably modulated and chromatically active surfaces, which at the same time are as valid as handwriting, field lines that cleave the internal volume of the shape, giving it a new dynamism that frees it from gravitational bonds and a sense of movement conveyed by the perfect balance of moments and pauses.

In his rarely exhibited drawings, we gain a deeper and more thorough understanding of artist. From watercolor to pen and ink, from pastel to mixed technique and acrylic - on any paper quality, Ferber demonstrates how despite being self-taught he managed to master a wide variety of techniques and processes. By modeling and highlighting the shapes, but also with the use of perspective, Ferber in his most abstract sheets is still able to communicate a sense of volume and space.

Furthermore, an investigation of the relationship between preparatory studies and finished works, many of the drawings on display tell the story that leads to the material creation of the sculptures presented as it highlights the dense network of exchanges between the creative process and the experimentation of an expressive system.


The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog (Italian/English) with color reproductions of the exhibited works.