Rafael Ferrer At El Museo Del Barrio

06/16/2010 07:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • nytimes.com

Thanks to El Museo del Barrio the artist Rafael Ferrer, at 77, is finally having his moment. "Retro/Active: The Work of Rafael Ferrer," his first large museum survey, spans more than five decades, with nearly 200 works in just about every late-20th-century medium except film and video.

The show has an immediate allure thanks to Mr. Ferrer's instinctive facility for color and materials of all kinds. The general impression is of someone who would figure out how to make art if confined to a nearly empty room. Calabash gourds appear in several sculptures. Paper bags -- a preferred drawing surface for decades -- have occasioned an exploration of the human face as mask that is almost encyclopedic in its cultural and emotional allusions. Small, wood-framed slate tablets provide an ideal surface for a series of appropriately grisaille paintings from 2005 and 2006.

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