Serra Pelada is an opencast mine, a prodigious pit dug by human hands, the result of a massive influx of self-employed miners to a remote part of northeastern Brazil. The promise of gold lured more than 80 000 garimpeiros from their homes and families, to a life of arduous labour in hazardous conditions. In 1985 Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar traveled to Serra Pelada, and over the course of weeks, he documented these miners and their backbreaking work in the mammoth crater. It was on these bare, muddy, terraced slopes that Jaar photographed and filmed what was to become Gold in the Morning.
The resulting images are a stark portrayal of Promethean repetition; the treacherous, daily descent of the men down the slippery walls and the clambering back up, laden with sacks of sodden earth. Beyond the graphic representation of their toils, the works reveal the humanity of the miners and their suffering. Jaar provides a portal into a hidden and unfamiliar place, dramatic in its scale and topography. In giving ‘visibility to those our world denies it to’, Jaar invites us to examine the social, cultural and political motivations for their labour. This illuminated installation counterbalances the great, faceless demand of the industrialised world with a profusion of faces: the faces of those, in the developing world, who supply. Jaar is known for his uncompromisingly frank documentary imagery, as well as his public interventions. He describes himself as a project artist, preferring to spend extended periods in the field, rather than being sequestered in a studio. He explains, “I do not create my works in the studio. I wouldn’t know what to do. I do not stare at a blank page of paper and start inventing a world coming only from my imagination. Every work is a response to a real-life event, a real life situation.”
Gold in the Morning, presented by the Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, is Jaar’s first major solo show in South Africa. The series was first exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1986 and subsequently at museums around the world, including the Whitechapel in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In its latest incarnation, Gold in the Morning will be comprised of a selection of ten large-scale light boxes. The artist will be in attendance at the opening. If you would like to preview the exhibition, please contact the gallery.
Alfredo Jaar (b. 1956, Santiago, Chile) is an artist, architect, and filmmaker who considers social injustices and human suffering through thought-provoking installations. Throughout his career Jaar has used different mediums to create compelling work that examines the way we engage with, and represent humanitarian crises. He is known as one of the most uncompromising, compelling, and innovative artists working today.
Through photography, film and installation he provokes the viewer to question our thought process around how we view the world around us. Jaar has explored significant political and social issues throughout his career, including genocide, the displacement of refugees across borders, and the balance of power between the first and third world.
Jaar’s work has been shown extensively around the world. He has participated in the Biennales of Venice (1986, 2007, 2009, 2013), Sao Paulo (1987, 1989, 2010) as well as Documenta in Kassel (1987, 2002).
Important individual exhibitions include The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1992); Whitechapel, London (1992); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1995); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1994);The Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome (2005) and The Nederlands Fotomuseum (2019). Major recent surveys of his work have taken place at Musée des Beaux Arts, Lausanne (2007); Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2008); Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlinische Galerie and Neue Gesellschaft fur bildende Kunst e.V., Berlin (2012); Rencontres d’Arles (2013); KIASMA, Helsinki (2014); and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK (2017).
The artist has realised more than seventy public interventions around the world. Over sixty monographic publications have been published about his work. He became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1985 and a MacArthur Fellow in 2000. He was awarded the Hiroshima Art Prize in 2018, and has recently received the prestigious Hasselblad award for 2020.
His work can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; MOCA and LACMA, Los Angeles; MASP, Museu de Arte de São Paulo; TATE, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Centro Reina Sofia, Madrid; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; MAXXI and MACRO, Rome; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlaebeck; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and Tokushima Modern Art Museum, Japan; M+, Hong Kong; and dozens of institutions and private collections worldwide.
The artist lives and works in New York, USA.