Alfredo Jaar‘s (b.1956, Santiago de Chile) first solo exhibition in New York since 2009, Shadows is the second project in a trilogy of works exploring the power and politics of an iconic single image and follows The Sound of Silence, 2006. In Shadows, the artist employs a photograph by Dutch photojournalist Koen Wessing taken in Nicaragua at the height of the 1978 insurrection. The photograph, which Jaar has described as perhaps the “strongest expression of grief” he has ever seen, was taken in Estelí, Nicaragua during the final days of oppression by the Somoza regime. The image depicts the moment shortly after two women are told of their father’s death. This will be only the second time that Shadows, which premiered at the SCAD Museum of Art in 2014, has been on view and will be reconfigured especially for the presentation at Lelong.
Light and illumination have been an important part of Jaar’s work since 2002. The artist’s Lament of the Images, 2002, first shown in Documenta X, introduced this strategic device. Lament of the Images will be shown at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in March 2015 as part of recent acquisitions. The Sound of Silence has been exhibited 25 times world-wide to date, in 18 countries and 10 languages; it was recently acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Viewers are guided through Shadows by the light of small sequential images that unravel the narrative. After walking through a dark corridor, the viewer is led to a central space in which an extraordinarily intense light emanates from a silhouetted image. This light illuminates and stuns the viewer, who becomes a participant in the action. Jaar’s choice to use the frame of a silhouette as a source of light intensifies the symbolic representation of grief and loss. As in many of Jaar’s works that explore the politics of images, Shadows engages the viewer to think of these two lives embodying many innocents who die in conflict or are oppressed.