Image: Philip Carr
Alfredo Jaar (Chilean, b. February 5, 1956) is a Conceptual and installation artist, and also works in architecture and film. He grew up on Martinique Island from the ages of six to 16, at which point he returned to Santiago, Chile, with his family. Jaar studied filmmaking at the Chilean-North America Institute of Culture, and architecture at the University of Chile. He moved to New York City after his graduation in 1981, at the height of Pinochet’s military rule.
Jaar’s experiences in different regions influence his art. Many of his projects question the relevance of geographical boundaries, whose primary purpose is to serve the interests of exploitative and oppressive forces. One of his first public pieces was This is Not America (A Logo for America)(1987). This contentious project, which overlooked a US Army recruitment station, established the future direction of his other works.
Jaar has become a respected installation artist whose photography, films, community projects, and artworks are featured in many museums, galleries, and public spaces worldwide. His work explores humanity’s outlook on images and art in general, and art’s limitations in representing significant events such as war, genocide, epidemics, and similar tragedies.
Political activism resonates in many of his exhibitions that seek to address major geopolitical themes. The themes he addresses include the Rwandan Genocide, gold mining in Brazil, environmental pollution in Nigeria, and immigration issues. His images and photos in Geography=War (1990) incorporate stark contrasts, forcing viewers to rethink their ideas about geography and power.
Jaar’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions, including the biennials of Venice (1986 and 2007), São Paulo (1987 and 1980), Johannesburg (1997), and Moscow (2009). His artistic accolades include a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1985, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award in 1987, a MacArthur Fellowship in 2000, and Spain’s Premio Extremadura a la Creación in 2006. Jaar has created over 60 public interventions globally, and over 50 monographic publications examine his works.
The artist currently lives and works in New York.