Alfredo Jaar - Latin America New York Tuesday, November 22, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Refugee (Water), 1988 is an important piece within the oeuvre of Chilean born artist, Alfredo Jaar. Jaar’s art often centers on controversial issues such as victims of political violence, immigration and refugee camps, as in the present lot. These issues question the relationship between First and Third World countries and their interplay within the global economy. It is interesting and perhaps fitting that Jaar utilizes the photographic imagery to illustrate such poignant yet politically charged subject matters. However, through his use of this medium Jaar points to the inefficacy of “generic” photographs in our society today, as they no longer elicit an emotional response from the general public, who have become desensitized by an oversaturation of explicit images of brutality. While the purpose of these types of images in the news or other forms of media is to give us the illusion of being present, the moment we look away we are left with a void and sense of absence. Instead, Jaar proposes to reverse the methodology by refraining from showing explicit atrocities and “offers an absence that could perhaps provoke a presence” (Alfredo Jaar, Let there be light: The Rwanda Project 1994-1998, Barcelona: Centre d’Art Santa Mónica, 1998, p. 21). Thus in the case of the present lot, Jaar elucidates the quandary of refugees who constantly face two harrowing choices: either to return to their place of origin and face persecution or to live in a camp with a dubious and uncertain promise of freedom. He attempts to represent this abysmal sense of uncertainty by projecting the face of a refugee gazing at us in recognition through reflection in a split mirror. In doing this, Jaar invites viewers to look at the work from different angles – yet never directly gazing into the light box itself – eliciting the desire to lock eyes with the subject while simultaneously making it almost impossible. The various angles provide us with a myriad of unsettling images that represent the disconcerting conditions of exile. Therefore, Refugee (Water) evokes a response that may offer new insights and allow us to form a more critical image of reality.

  • Artist Biography

    Alfredo Jaar

    Chilean • 1956

    Born in Santiago, Alfredo Jaar studied architecture at the Universidad de Chile. He was the first Latin American to participate in the Aperto Section of the Venice Biennale of 1986. His art interrogates the relationship between First and Third World countries and their interplay within the global economy through community-based projects, photographs, installations and film.

    Jaar's engagement with social and political issues in the larger global context is focused on the experience of the individual's endurance in different conflicts and personal narratives. He also explores the limitations of art in representing these humanitarian events in a society that has become desensitized to images depicting mordant issues, such as genocides and famines. His thoughtful and provocative works often address politically charged issues in subtle and poetic ways, creating new perspectives for reflecting on important world issues.

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Refugee (Water)

Lightbox with color transparency and two mirrors, in 3 parts
Lightbox: 40 1/2 x 40 1/2 x 5 3/8 in. (102.9 x 102.9 x 13.7 cm)
each mirror: 20 x 10 x 2 in. (50.8 x 25.4 x 5.1 cm)
overall dimensions: 46 x 40 x 28 in. (117 cm x 102 cm x 71 cm)

Executed in 1988, this work is unique.

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $60,000

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale, Latin American Art
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York Auction 22 November 2016