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b. 1956, Chile

Alfredo Jaar Biography

In his prolific practice, artist and architect Alfredo Jaar engages with the power and politics of images. Using a range of methods including installation, photography, filmmaking, and community-based art to explore topics such as globalisation, fascism, immigration, and homelessness, the artist's work is always researched-based, created in reaction to a real event.

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Jaar will study an occurrence that has caught his interest and use art to add his own layer to the story: 'I have never created a single work that is just a pure product of my imagination or me as an artist in the studio. When I'm interested in a certain issue, I travel to a place and I investigate—I react', the artist said in his interview with Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers for Ocula Magazine. Within this method, he acknowledges the impossible-to-close gap between experience and record, or even ability to record. Previously, he has created art about events such as Rwanda's genocide and the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. In engaging with such calamities, he hopes to bear witness—to give visibility to those who are left invisible.

Jaar describes himself as an 'architect who makes art'. In his youth, he wanted to become an artist, but growing up in Chile in the 1970s this dream seemed unattainable. So he decided to study in the more stable field of architecture. Luckily for him, in architecture he found a passion equal to art: 'when I discovered architecture I was the happiest man on earth.' As an artist now, Jaar still considers space architecturally in all its realms—socially and politically as well as physically—and maintains an architect's eye for logic and detail.

Born into a Socialist Chilean family, the artist came of age in a Chile ruled by Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship, in which dissenters would disappear overnight. Later in his career, the artist would receive a commission to create a memorial to the victims of Pinochet's regime, entitled The Geometry of Conscience and completed in 2010. Only ten people are able to view this memorial at a time, each group descending a staircase of 33 steps into the pitch-black memorial space. After one minute of total darkness, the back wall of the space slowly lights up to reveal a grid of hundreds of white silhouettes. The walls on either side of the back wall are mirrored, creating the illusion that these silhouettes reach into infinity.

After the lights of the silhouettes in The Geometry of Conscience reach their brightest, they switch off, and the space is once more enveloped in darkness, leaving only a ghost-image of the figures behind. The silhouettes outline both deceased victims of Pinochet's regime and living Chileans. In doing so, the memorial acknowledges not only victims of the regime, but also the '17 million Chileans who are alive today and trying to retrace their common history', according to Jaar's studio manager, Capucine Gros.

Jaar arrived in New York in 1982, using his architecture career to finance his art practice. He is perhaps best known for a video work created after arriving in New York: his 1987 animation, A Logo for America. This artwork was placed on a billboard in Times Square and played amongst a rotation of advertisements every six minutes for a fortnight. In the animation, the viewer sees the map outline of the United States of America, the country's flag, and the texts 'THIS IS NOT AMERICA' and 'THIS IS NOT AMERICA'S FLAG'. The final image of the animation is the map outline of the continents of America (North and South), shown with the word 'AMERICA'. In A Logo for America, the artist draws attention to the way social preconceptions and priorities are reflected and misled in language. Projects such as this illustrate his interest in art's ability to make connections and reveal cracks in the system—to point out cultural distortions.

Alfredo Jaar became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1985, and a MacArthur Fellow in 2000.

Ocula | 2019

Alfredo Jaar Featured Artworks

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Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness by Alfredo Jaar contemporary artwork
Alfredo JaarTeach Us To Outgrow Our Madness, 1995Neon
255 x 200 cm
Galerie Thomas Schulte Enquire about this work
I Can't Go On. I'll Go On. by Alfredo Jaar contemporary artwork
Alfredo JaarI Can't Go On. I'll Go On., 2016Neon
50 x 50 x 4 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Enquire about this work
Six Seconds by Alfredo Jaar contemporary artwork
Alfredo JaarSix Seconds, 2005Lightbox with colour transparency
91 x 61 cm
Goodman Gallery Enquire about this work
Gold in the Morning by Alfredo Jaar contemporary artwork
Alfredo JaarGold in the Morning, 1985/2018Suite of three lightboxes with colour transparencies
122.6 x 246 x 7.6 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Enquire about this work
Gesamtkunstwerk by Alfredo Jaar contemporary artwork
Alfredo JaarGesamtkunstwerk, 1988/2018Lightbox with vinyl mounted on plexiglass
21.3 x 92.4 x 12.7 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse Enquire about this work
You Do Not Take a Photograph, You Make It. by Alfredo Jaar contemporary artwork
Alfredo JaarYou Do Not Take a Photograph, You Make It., 2013Light Box with B/W transparency and printed matter
SCAI The Bathhouse Enquire about this work
(Kindness) of (Strangers) by Alfredo Jaar contemporary artwork
Alfredo Jaar(Kindness) of (Strangers), 2015Neon, mirrors and framed print
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris Enquire about this work

Alfredo Jaar Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Listen to a heart beat at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin
Open Now
23 May–11 July 2020 Group Exhibition Listen to a heart beat Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, RED at Galerie Lelong & Co. New York, New York
Closed
10 April–8 May 2020 Group Exhibition RED Galerie Lelong & Co. New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Alfredo Jaar, 25 Years Later at Goodman Gallery, London
Closed
14 November 2019–11 January 2020 Alfredo Jaar 25 Years Later Goodman Gallery, London

Alfredo Jaar Represented By

Alfredo Jaar In Ocula Magazine

A blended mass: A report from Art Basel 2016 Ocula Report A blended mass: A report from Art Basel 2016 By Stephanie Bailey, Basel

Walking through Art Basel 2016 felt like being ‘between; and ‘beneath’ a ‘resolved mass’, in which a kind of emerging globalism has taken firm root.

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Alfredo Jaar Ocula Conversation Alfredo Jaar By Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers, Auckland

Chilean-born artist, architect and filmmaker Alfredo Jaar is celebrated for his poetic yet unflinching address of global injustices, political prejudice and tragedy. The recipient of numerous awards and accolades, Jaar was recently in Auckland, New Zealand, for the major group exhibition Space to Dream: Recent Art From South America, ...

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Three exhibitions you must see in Auckland now Ocula Report Three exhibitions you must see in Auckland now By Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers, Auckland

Following a three-year hiatus, the Auckland Art Fair is returning at the end of May with a suite of galleries from New Zealand, Australia, Latin America and the wider Pacific region. With a distinctly global outlook, the art fair is emphasising a fresher, more contemporary aspect in promoting emerging artists and galleries, inviting the...

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Alfredo Jaar In Related Press

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Alfredo Jaar on the Capacity of Culture Related Press Alfredo Jaar on the Capacity of Culture 19 February 2019, Hyperallergic

CAPE TOWN — Late last year, the artist Alfredo Jaar displayed a series of photographs and piercing neon works addressing the shared trauma and healing of Robben Island's political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, after Apartheid. It was in the midst of this exhibition, titled Men Who Cannot Cry, at Goodman Gallery in Cape Town, that I...

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The Striking Election-Season Billboards That Are Also Art Related Press The Striking Election-Season Billboards That Are Also Art 8 October 2018, Vanity Fair

The billboards going up around the country this week will have a familiar message for this midterm election: Vote. But featuring images of protests and reminders of the 2016 election, produced by some of the country's best-known artists, the billboards—one for each of the 50 states—will look nothing like your average political...

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Shining light: Alfredo Jaar brings politics and human rights to the table Related Press Shining light: Alfredo Jaar brings politics and human rights to the table 12 October 2017, Wallpaper*

Alfredo Jaar does not describe himself as an artist, nor as a sculptor or filmmaker. Nonetheless, the Chilean has produced artworks, installations, films and photographs that focus on politics and human rights for over three decades. 'I am an architect who makes art,' he explains. 'I studied architecture; I never received formal training in art. I...

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Two Projects Revisit Historical Images with a Calm and Critical Eye Related Press Two Projects Revisit Historical Images with a Calm and Critical Eye 10 November 2016, Hyperallergic

There are photographs that strike me as insurmountable. An image of presumable lovers, falling hand in hand from the World Trade Center as it burned. The image of a Vietnamese girl, screaming from the burning effects of napalm. The pain these photographs elicit is debilitating and the experience of seeing them is voyeuristic, not productive. The...

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Alfredo Jaar In Video & Audio

Alfredo Jaar: Images are Not Innocent Related Video & Audio Alfredo Jaar: Images are Not Innocent 7 February 2013, Louisiana Channel

Alfredo Jaar was interviewed by Christian Lund at Malmö Konsthall, February 2013.

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