MIRRORING EVIL: NAZI IMAGERY/RECENT ART
Monday, March 18, 2002 - Sunday, June 30, 2002
1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, New York, NY
Conceived and organized by Norman L. Kleeblatt, the Susan and Elihu Rose Curator of Fine Arts at The Jewish Museum, Mirroring Evil presents works that jarringly and disturbingly juxtapose images from our own contemporary consumer culture with ones from the Nazi era and the Holocaust. As reflected in the exhibition's title, and as becomes generally apparent in the exhibition's accompanying texts, the artists have attempted to challenge contemporary viewers to discover within themselves a fresh insight into what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil". It is not surprising that the exhibition has provoked a broad range of intense responses.
In a major essay for the exhibition's catalogue, Norman Kleeblatt points out that each artist puts the viewer in the uncomfortable terrain between good and evil, seduction and repulsion. If we dare engage in their discomfiting art, we are forced to confront the very process of moral and ethical decision-making. Using a variety of media and aesthetic strategies, they catalyze a process of self-doubt that, in many cases, is just short of chilling.
Works by three prominent conceptual artists born and educated in Poland are included in Mirroring Evil. The provocative work of Zbigniew Libera (b. 1959) has been widely exhibited and debated in Poland, where he still lives and works. He is known internationally for his series of Correcting Devices, the most famous of which is the controversial Lego Concentration Camp, acquired by the Jewish Museum and featured in the exhibition.
The Lego series, "made partially from various Lego kits," writes Libera, "takes us into a village with a mental hospital, Stalin's prison, World War II and Bosnian concentration camps. Thus, I feel I mix historical with contemporary references to represent our world, our little inferno, as built and sanctified by norms." (It is said that Denmark's Lego Group had donated the building blocks without knowing the artist's intentions.)
Libera refused an invitation to the 1997 Venice Biennale when asked to omit his Lego series. The director of the Biennale's Polish pavilion, Jan Stanislaw Wojciechowski, (as reported in the Los Angeles Times) called the Lego works "explosive material" that trivializes one of the darkest moments in European civilization. At the same time Libera is one of the most widely known and praised Polish artists in the world and his work has been exhibited at galleries and art festivals throughout Europe and the United States, including the Jeu de Palme in March 2000.
The works of both Maciej Toporowicz (b.1958), whose film Obsession is for some one of the jarring elements in this exhibition, and Piotr Uklanski (b.1968), whose installation presents glossy photos of movie stars playing Nazis, have been shown internationally. Both artists currently live in New York.
For further information on the exhibition, visit www.thejewishmuseum.org
Please note: a small retrospective of Zbigniew Libera's work is currently on exhibit at:
American European Fine Art
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