The List Visual Arts Center's winter season is underway with three new shows: Alfredo Jaar's examination of genocide in Rwanda, William Kentridge's musings on apartheid in South Africa, and Kiki Smith's photographic juxtaposition of the human form to animals, the environment and the cosmos.
Alfredo Jaar: Lament of the Images includes three photography-based installations--The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, Let There Be Light and Field, Road, Cloud--derived from the Chilean-born artist's experiences in Rwanda in 1994, where he traveled to record the testimonies of the genocide in which one million members of the Tutsi ethnic group were massacred over the course of three months by the extremist Hutu Power regime.
In a project which Boston Globe critic Christine Temin called "the most moving memorial I'd seen to the hundreds of thousands of murdered Tutsis," Mr. Jaar has created a project that encourages viewers to go beyond the graphic media images of death and mutilation.
Using primarily photographs and texts that are displayed in a somber, darkened gallery, the images include the eyes of one of the witnesses and survivors of the genocide, and the startlingly beautiful landscape in which the massacre took place. By appropriating the vehicles of advertising and photography, with backlit light boxes and a mountain of 10,000 slides representing the million slaughtered, Mr. Jaar slows the pace of the absorption of his images and accompanying text, engaging the viewer more deeply in the subjects and issues.
Alfredo Jaar: Lament of the Images is guest-curated by Debra Bricker Balken. The title Lament of the Images refers to a poem by African writer Ben Okri. A catalogue of the exhibition, which documents the List Center project and Mr. Jaar's other work on Rwanda, collectively titled The Rwanda Projects, is available in the gallery.
EXAMINING SOUTH AFRICA
The charcoal and gouache drawings and the film that comprise South African William Kentridge's Weighing... and Wanting, all dated 1997, allegorically deal with the relationship between the powerful and the oppressed in his homeland's apartheid era, a time of systematic oppression of the black African majority which lasted from 1948-94.
The works center around Mr. Kentridge's character, Soho Eckstein, a broad-shouldered, white South African industrialist whose livelihood and life have been dismantled by the ascendancy of the African National Congress and condemnation of apartheid. The exhibition's title refers to a biblical episode in which a disembodied hand appears before King Belshazzar of Babylon, writing, "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, for you have not humbled your heart before God, so your kingdom has come to an end."
The film in the exhibition, shown via a laser-disc projection on the gallery wall and flanked by two drawings, is actually an animation of the drawings, made by the artist as he erased and made additions.
Guest curator Ms. Balken and LVAC assistant curator Jennifer Riddell will offer a walk-through of the Jaar and Kentridge exhibitions and will discuss the political and emotional character of these very different African exhibits on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 2pm.
PHOTOGRAPHS OF NATURE
Kiki Smith: Recent Photographic Work reflects the artist's burgeoning interest in the natural world, extending her explorations of the human form to relationship among humans, animals, the environment and the cosmos.
Ms. Smith's recent work, created during 1997-98, joins her sometimes morbid tendencies with an optimistic belief in a state of nature or grace. The exhibition includes collection of Cibachrome prints that show details or fragments of her figurative sculptures as well as imagery depicting birds and animals. These latter images are assembled into grids of up to 30 prints in which the overall patterning and abstraction of the composition are emphasized and a sense of movement is derived from the repetition of a singular image from varying perspectives.
Kiki Smith: Recent Photographic Work is organized by Helaine Posner, the List Center's former curator, in collaboration with Katy Kline, former List director and now director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. The exhibition coincides with the recent publication of a 200-page, full-color monograph Kiki Smith by Ms. Posner, published by Bulfinch Press. The shows run through March 28.
The List Center is open Tuesday through Thursday and weekends from noon-6pm and Fridays from noon-8pm.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 24, 1999.