Isidro Ferrer. Other People’s Book
curated by Luca Cheri Museo Nivola, Orani, March 25 – August 20, 2023
The Museo Nivola is delighted to present the exhibition Isidro Ferrer. Other People’s Book, the Spanish illustrator and graphic designer’s first solo exhibition at an Italian institution. Born in Madrid in 1963, Isidro Ferrer is a legend in the world of contemporary graphic design, creator of a style distinguished for powerful visuals, irony, and intelligent use of metaphor and typographical experimentation. His work for major cultural institutions, brands, and publishing houses across the world has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Premio Nacional de Diseño (2002) and Premio Nacional de Ilustración (2006). Ferrer’s images are created using an original, evocative method: starting from the designated theme, he creates sculptures in his studio using found objects, scrap metal and wood, and apparently insignificant items, assembling them to create unexpected and surprising forms.
In his work, Ferrer draws on the concept of pareidolia, the instinctive tendency of the brain to recompose abstract or chance compositions into familiar and meaningful images. Just as we can see the shape of a person or animal in a cloud in the sky or a rock in a landscape, Isidro Ferrer needs only to arrange three dots in a triangle to evoke a face, scrub, a beard, a bicycle seat, or the sly muzzle of a fox. He then takes photographs of the sculptures against clean, neutral backgrounds, arranging them into elegant visual puns to maximise the effectiveness of the communication. At the crossroads between artisan experimentation, photographic practice, and digital reformulation, the objects and posters interact to create enigmatic images that, through a simple language, almost like a whisper that informs rather than imposes, stimulate the viewer’s sense of play and inspire reflection. Although also active in the commercial sphere, Ferrer prioritizes cultural and social communication for theatre, cinema, and music, working in a terrain of exploration and communication linked to human thought. A special place in his practice is reserved for book illustration, spanning poetry, non-fiction, and literature for adults and children and collaborating with writers and poets from across the world. In his books, Ferrer works in an extraordinary range of styles, hues, and iconographies, making him one of the most interesting illustrators on the international scene. The exhibition at the Nivola Museum is divided into two sections. The first is a retrospective summary of his career, presenting a selection of objects and illustrations that show Ferrer’s many-sided creativity and talent for exploring form and colour. The second focuses on the project that gave the exhibition its name. Conceived specially for the Nivola Museum, in continuation of the collaboration begun in 2020 with L’enciclopedia visiva dei suoni, Other People’s Book is a series of personal projects, never before presented to the public, that Isidro Ferrer began to work on in 2020, developing the idea of participatory book and no–book. His starting point was volumes that had already been published and had a particular quality, feature, or allure that captured his attention. As observed by Luca Cheri, curator of the exhibition and director of the Nivola Museum, “Ferrer makes the book a palimpsest, de-territorialising it in order to inhabit it and transform it into a different object through overlapping drawings, which respectfully and sensitively integrate, transform, and enliven its pages.” The experiment began in 2020 with the illustrator and writer Květa Pacovská’s Pieces of my thoughts and continued with the illustrator Alejandro Magallanes’s ¿Libros de artista? and a religious book of black and white photographs, Die Muttergottes. For the museum, Isidro has paid homage to Costantino Nivola, working on the facsimile, published in a limited edition in 2009 by Electa, of the mock-up made by the Sardinian artist in the early 1960s for a book about his work that was never published, combining his own texts and designs for projects made in Italy and the United States. “Isidro Ferrer”, observes Giuliana Altea, president of the Fondazione Nivola, “‘re-reads’ Nivola, filling the pages with a fantastical army of mythological creatures, talking animals, and enchanted landscapes. A magical forest that combines Sardinian and Andalusian folklore, in the spirit of a timeless modernity.” In the exhibition, these creatures leave the pages of the book to populate the old washhouse that is now used as the Nivola Museum’s temporary exhibition space. It is an imaginary meeting between Nivola and Ferrer, two artists who looked and look at the world with curious, penetrating eyes, overlapping everyday reality with a continuously developing poetic image world: “Before my first visit to Sardinia,” Isidro Ferrer recalls, “I already knew of Costantino Nivola, through Saul Steinberg’s long correspondence with Aldo Buzzi. In these letters, collected in a book called Lettere ad Aldo Buzzi, 1945-1999, Steinberg makes repeated reference to Nivola. My admiration for the great Romanian-born illustrator led me to Nivola, but it was only with my first visit to Orani that I discovered the Sardinian artist’s work in its entirety, complexity, and brilliance. Work that immediately bewitched me. While Ferrer is in dialogue with Nivola, Paolo Angeli is in dialogue with both, through a soundscape that offers a metareading of the Iberian artist’s work. Angeli’s music expands Ferrer’s visual imaginary to a plurisensorial dimension. The sounds and ancestral rhythms of Sardinia join with Mediterranean melodies, compas that evoke immaterial borderlands, creating a musical geography with no borders. Dissonance, noise music, and psychedelics intertwine with Middle Eastern echoes, transfigured traditional songs, abstract environments dropped into dream-like atmospheres.
Isidro Ferrer With a degree in Drama and Set Design, Ferrer is an illustrator, graphic designer, and product designer. He has produced more than fifty illustrated books, published in Spanish, French, English, Italian, Romanian, Korean, and Portuguese. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions in Huesca, Madrid, Gijón, Barcelona, Valencia, Palma de Mallorca, Segovia, Toulouse, Lisbon, Rijeka, Bogotá, Quito, Buenos Aires, Turin, Paris, Mexico City, Santiago, Tegucigalpa, El Salvador, La Paz, Santo Domingo, Marseilles, Lima, Miami, Washington DC, Chicago, Kiev, Prague, Athens, Bucharest, Tehran, Shiraz, Lausanne, and Macerata. He has won numerous awards for his work as an illustrator and graphic designer, among which: Premio Lazarillo de Ilustración; 12th International Poster and Graphic Design Festival of Chaumont (France); Promax Gold Medal for Animation for Television (Canada); three AEPD prizes; LAUS prize; Premio Daniel Gil de edición; Premio Junceda de Ilustración; Premio Experimenta de Diseño; Premio Visión de oro de creatividad exterior; European Design Award, Stockholm (poster design); Good Design Award, Chicago Athenaeum; Mention Bologna Ragazzi Award 2017; Best Design, IWSC International Wine & Spirit Competition, England; Ryszard Kaja Foundation Award, Poland. He has also won the Spanish National Design Award and the Spanish National Illustration Award, and has been a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) since 2000. He has collaborated with: Ministry of Culture, Spain; Instituto Cervantes; Goethe Institut, National Dramatic Centre, Teatre del Liceu, El Pais, El Mundo, Santillana, Penguin Random House, LZF Lamps, Camper, La Zaragozana, Vista Alegre, Mobles 114, Imaginarium, Fundación Telefónica.
Paolo Angeli Paolo Angeli grew up looking at the sea from the northern tip of Sardinia. Considered a leading innovator on the international scene, he uses a language that brings traditional Sardinian music into the present, creating a bridge between memory and innovation, to compose avant-garde Mediterranean music at a crossroads between free jazz, folk noise, minimal pop, and post-rock. Key to Angeli’s music is a special Sardinian guitar of his own invention: with 18 strings, it is a hybrid between a baritone guitar, cello, and drums, complete with hammers, pedals, and variable-pitch propellers. Angeli has released 12 solo albums. He has lived in Spain since 2005 and regularly performs at major festivals and theaters across the world. He has improvised and collaborated with Fred Frith, Iva Bittova, Hamid Drake, Evan Parker, Antonello Salis, Pat Metheny, and Jon Rose, among others.
The Nivola Museum The Nivola Museum in Orani is run by the Fondazione Costantino Nivola, a non-profit cultural institution devoted to the promotion of the artistic and personal legacy of Costantino Nivola, support for contemporary art in all forms, and the cultural and social development of central Sardinia. The museum, a group of buildings set in a green city park, is home to the most important European collection of works by Costantino Nivola (Orani, 1911 – East Hampton, 1988), a graphic designer, art director, and sculptor committed to the integration of the visual arts and architecture and key figure in the cultural exchange between Italy and the United States in the twentieth century. The museum organizes exhibitions of contemporary art with a special focus on design, sculpture, the relationship between the arts, and that between humans and the environment. It also offers a rich programme of public events and educational and research activities, acting as a cultural force oriented towards innovation and social promotion n the middle of the Mediterranean.
Isidro Ferrer. Other People’s Book
curated by Luca Cheri Museo Nivola, Orani, March 25 – August 20, 2023
Institutional sponsors: Autonomous Region of Sardinia, City of Orani Main sponsor: Fondazione di Sardegna With support from: Biennale Barbagia, Distretto Culturale del Nuorese, Rete Ecoturismo Sardegna Exhibition design: Alessandro Floris Exhibition installation: Artigianato e Design di Pietro Fois Graphics and Catalogue design: Heart Studio We would like to thank the S’Isula ‘e Campeda winery, Bosa
The Nivola Museum Luca Cheri, Director Sergio Flore, Head of Mediation and Education Barbara Puddu, Head of Communication Rosella Sedda, Head of reception and Bookshop Loretta Ziranu, Head of Administration Sophie Cavada, Intern