Rafael Ferrer

The inspiration of European artists has always fueled Ferrer’s active mind, offering vast material for visual exploration as well as invention. Ferrer’s new work pays homage to the European masters, Alberto Giacometti, Giorgio Morandi and the American sculptor, David Smith. By entering into the studios of modern masters, Ferrer reveals aspects of their work and personae that only an artist can uncover. The paintings are not literal depictions of the artist’s studios, they are revelations of both physical and psychological space. Ferrer conceived these paintings using the sculptors and painter as raw material, a touchstone for his rich imagination.

Giacometti’s studio, as one might imagine, has little color. Ferrer infuses it with a palette of earth tones, warm beiges, browns, whites and grays. A vista into the artist’s space, entitled The Mind, depicts a corner of the studio. On the left are some of Giacometti’s recognizable totem-like figure sculptures. More important than the presence of the sculptures themselves is the atmosphere of the studio: the wood burning stove with cut logs for heating, the walls, the floor, the other “stuff” that surrounds an artist in the midst of the private and intense act of creation. Ferrer has captured both the spirit of the artist and the energy of the universal creative artistic endeavor, all summed up in the title, The Mind.

In contrast to the subdued tones of the Giacometti works, is the palette Ferrer uses while paying homage to David Smith. One cannot help but think of Ferrer’s paintings of the tropics in association with the pinks, yellows, reds, browns and blacks. A painting of Smith’s studio entitled Abstract once again invites multiple levels of perception. This is the floor of Smith’s studio with an array of sculpture materials: swirling, bent pieces of metal, materials we cannot identify, the corner of a work table and stool animate and activate the floor. But, once again, this is not a literal visitation of a studio, it is a poetic evocation in paint of the truly abstract nature of creating art, all in rich, warm, moving hues.

When Ferrer began his paintings in the ‘50s, his first abstract yet figure-referential painting was created with David Smith in mind. During his career, Ferrer has created sculpture, painted tents, constructions of wildly original materials, environments with neon lights, even happenings with leaves and ice in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He is an artist whose imagination knows no bounds.
Rafael Ferrer was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1933. He studied at Staunton Military Academy where he learned to play the drums. In 1951 he went to Syracuse University where he began to paint on his own. Ferrer moved to New York in 1954 to work as a drummer at night and to paint by day. He returned to Puerto Rico in 1959 and in 1963 began to exhibit his paintings at the University of Puerto Rico galleries. In 1966 he moved to Philadelphia to make art and teach. From 1966 forward, Ferrer devoted himself to his painting full-time, a self-taught artist.