April 24, 2014

Alfredo Jaar: Portraits of Justice

Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Alfredo Jaar, Portraits of Justice, 2013. Mixed-media installation. Courtesy the artist, New York. Photography: Rudolf Costin.

Portraits of Justice is a new permanent installation by Alfredo Jaar at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the City University of New York and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York unveiled a new permanent installation by Alfredo Jaar. Commissioned for the Lynn and Jules Kroll Atrium of the new building designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the project was coordinated by independent curator Jennifer McGregor.

Jaar’s new installation Portraits of Justice welcomes students, staff, faculty, and visitors entering the college with an elegant wall of pristine mirrors and aluminum panels. In midst of the reflections of the atrium’s buzzing life, the seemingly minimal installation offers the college community a gaze into itself. The work’s real complexity however unfolds as the mirrors light up every few minutes with faces of John Jay students, intermittently appearing and disappearing in various areas throughout the installation. 

At random intervals, some of the students speak out the word “justice” and, three times a day every day, the entire installation comes to life as it completely fills up with students whispering, shouting, imposing, or calling for “justice” in unison. 

Technically, the students are recorded videos of approximately one hundred John Jay students displayed on twenty large monitors, hidden behind two-way mirrors. These function like regular mirrors when unlit but become completely clear when light shines behind them—as is the case when the monitors turn on.

The layering of reflections and the gradual unraveling of the complexity of the work reflects the difficulty and intricacy of a field like criminal justice, as well as the rigor and discipline that it requires. Mirrors, an age-old symbol of transparency and scrutiny, also suggest that all justice begins by looking at oneself.

Facing their own or their peers’ reflections in the installation, students simply and powerfully remind themselves as well as the entire college community—from students and faculty to public safety officers and guests—why they are here: justice. Every minute and every hour of every day.

Alfredo Jaar
Portraits of Justice, 2013
Installation with twenty LCD monitors, aluminum panels, TV mirror glass panels, and videos
Software design by Jerzy Klebieko
Cinematography by Rudolf Costin
Alfredo Jaar is an artist, architect, and filmmaker who lives and works in New York. His work has been shown extensively around the world. More than fifty monographs have been published about his work. He has realized more than sixty public interventions around the world. He recently completed two permanent public commissions: The Geometry of Conscience, a memorial located next to the just-opened Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile; and Park of the Laments, a memorial park within a park sited next to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. 




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