Retrospective highlights work of former luminary on Philly art scene

The Lancaster Museum of Art will be exhibiting a career retrospective of former Philadelphia artist, Rafael Ferrer.

Ferrer was something of a fixture in Philadelphia in the ’70s and ’80s, as a teacher at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) and Temple’s Tyler School of Art, and as a working artist.

He was commissioned to create a public sculpture, “El Gran Teatro de la Luna” for Fairhill Square in North Philadelphia. Then Ferrer relocated to New York, his sculpture was removed from Fairhill Square, and there was little opportunity to see anything of his in Philadelphia.

His star rose considerably in 2010, when he was the subject of a major show at El Museo del Barrio New York. Earlier this year, his “El Gran Teatro de la Luna” was pulled from storage and reinstalled in North Philadelphia. Now, the Lancaster Museum of Art is exhibiting “Rafael Ferrer: A Survey, Works on Paper 1952-2012,” a 60-year retrospective of his work.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Nearly 150 works on paper will be exhibited at the small museum. They include watercolors, drawings, and brown paper-bag masks done in crayon, which Ferrer has been creating since the 1970s.

“You can see this is a person who never stops working,” said curator Edith Newhall. “Not only because he likes art — I think he works out issues in his life through his art. That’s very clear when you see it. I don’t think anybody can look at this work and not think that it’s incredibly passionate and personal.”

This is Newhall’s first time curating. Since 2005 she has regularly reviewed gallery shows for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and was tapped by Ferrer to curate this show when the previous curator, Stanley Grand, was suddenly fired from Lancaster Museum of Art.

Newhall is a longtime friend of Ferrer and his wife, Francoise. Francoise Ferrer has been working closely with Newhall to whittle six decades of work into a digestible show.

“It was a very, very labor-intensive thing to put together without a big museum staff to help me,” said Francoise Ferrer, whose first stab at the Lancaster show was aborted in March. “It started out with one director who was really going to do it, and he is no longer with the museum. I’m not sure why. Essentially, the show was postponed.”

The work on display will be from the artist’s own archives. While Rafael Ferrer is largely removed from the curatorial nuts and bolts, he is expected to attend the Sept. 7 opening.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal