1+1+1: Works by Alfredo Jaar
January 15 – April 19 1992
“1 + 1 + 1: Works by Alfredo Jaar,” presented new works by the Chilean-born, New York-based artist, whose sculptural installations examine the inextricable links that tie the so-called “First World” to the “Third World.” This first major New York museum exhibiton included five new works and was the last stop of the touring exhibition “Alfredo Jaar,” that was circulated by the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.
The exhibition comprised works from three major series by the artist, each focusing on a different region of the globe. In the first, Jaar addressed the struggles experienced in Latin America, particularly as manifest in the 1980s gold rush at Brazil’s largest open-pit gold mine, Serra Pelada. In the next, Jaar turned to Asia, examining the situation of Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong, whose lives were enmeshed in the turbulent history of Southeast Asia. More broadly, Jaar raised troubling questions about immigration and the entrenchment of national borders in a global context. The exhibition included, as well, a work from the artist’s series on Africa. Investigating the impact of multinational capitalism on less developed countries, Jaar commented on the effects of dependency and domination.
Working primarily in the format of large-scale light box installations, Jaar culled his images from thousands of photographs and videotapes, most taken by the artist himself during research trips. The portraits incorporated in his work focused on individuals whose lives were trapped in the social, political, and economic oppressions established by a colonialist legacy. Yet, through the use of mirrors, reflective pools of water, and unusual framing devices, Jaar’s installations refused to posit closure or conclusiveness. By engaging the viewer physically and conceptually, Jaar’s dramatic installations sought to undermine preconditioned ways of looking at images and call attention to the bias of a partial view.
Looking to Latin America, Africa, and Asia, Jaar presented a vision of the global system as a fragile network of interdependent parts — thus 1 + 1 + 1 — subject always to the clash of competing forces.