The Eyes of Gutete Emerita
Two Quadvision lightboxes with six black-and-white text transparencies and two color transparencies, edition 5/6
Pictured: Cycle 4 of 4
Purchased through the William S. Rubin Fund, the Contemporary Art Fund, the Guernsey Center Moore 1904 Memorial Fund, and the Anonymous #144 Fund; 2006.17
War has been a constant presence from one generation to another and one era to another in all parts of the world, and artists have often been witnesses to these conflicts. The Hood Museum of Art's new acquisition The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, by Chilean-born artist Alfredo Jaar, serves as witness to one woman's suffering in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. When Jaar visited Rwanda in August after the genocide of April and May, he traveled to Kigali, where the violence was centered. On August 29 he went to the Ntarama Church, forty miles south of this city, where four hundred Tutsi men, women, and children had gathered to escape the killing and instead were brutally slaughtered on April 15. When Jaar and his interpreter were there, they met a woman named Gutete Emerita. She told them about seeing her husband and sons murdered during the massacre and escaping with her daughter. In creating Eyes, Jaar made the decision not to show the results of the carnage, the bodies that still lay rotting at the site; instead he describes it in text. Then he shows the eyes of the woman, whose expression he cannot forget. It is an attempt to fix and convey the horror of systematic violence by focusing on one survivor. He purposefully names the people in his work—they are not anonymous victims.
The Eyes of Gutete Emerita is the signature work of a series entitled Rwandan Projects. Alfredo Jaar's work leads us to question the efficacy of words over photographic images, as well as the way in which they interact to create meaning outside the boundaries of one medium. It is one of the most important works of art about war and violence that has been created in the last thirty years. It was selected for the cover of Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics by David Levi Strauss (Aperture, 2003) and was the culminating work for a recent exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art entitled Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic in Pain. The Eyes of Gutete Emerita joins other powerful war-related works in the collection, including Callot's Miseries of War and Goya's The Disasters of War, two works by American artist George Bellows that depict civilian victims of World War I (one a promised gift), and two photographs by James Nachtwey, one of an event during the civil war in El Salvador and the other of the falling of the first tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Alfredo Jaar, an artist, architect, and filmmaker, was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985 and was chosen to be a MacArthur Fellow in 2000. His solo exhibitions include those at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, the Modern Museet in Stockholm, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Associate Director and Barbara C. and Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming
Last Updated: 11/14/06