Jitish Kallat

Art in America November 23, 2010

Photo: View of Jitish Kallat’s installation Public Notice 3, 2010; at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Public Notice 3, a text-based installation conceived for the Grand Staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago by Jitish Kallat, is truly monumental in aim. The site-specific work engages the historical and cultural conditions of its locale, connecting past and present in a powerful statement about religious tolerance and fanaticism.

The Mumbai-based artist, a rising figure internationally who also works in painting and photography, here juxtaposes references to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with the first World’s Parliament of Religions, held in the Art Institute’s newly opened building on Sept. 11, 1893, during the World’s Columbian Exposition. In the auditorium adjacent to the museum’s staircase, Swami Vivekananda delivered his landmark speech calling for universal acceptance of all religions. Kallat has rendered the Hindu monk’s speech visible in an LED text display installed against black rubber backing that ascends the stairway’s 118 risers. Illuminated in green, blue, yellow, orange and red—the colors of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security threat level advisory system—the work lays bare the haunting disparity between the two Sept. 11 events.

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