"Christian Boltanski: The Loss of Innocence" on view at Museum of Art

An exhibition of recent work by French artist Christian Boltanski will be on view at the Bates College Museum of Art Jan. 14-March 24, 2000. Christian Boltanski: The Loss of Innocence will highlight Boltanski’s photographic ensembles for which he has become widely known over the years in Europe, the United States and Israel. The artist uses children’s school photographs from the 1930s and 1940s found in European archives. Although the children are often portrayed smiling in the original photographs, Boltanski’s enlarged, grainy images become distorted and invoke the imminent tragedy of the Holocaust.

Featured in the exhibition will be Boltanski’s newest portfolio of prints, The School of Grosse Hamburgerstrasser, Berlin, 1939, a suite of eight photogravure etchings recently acquired by the Bates College Museum of Art. The series shows a group of boisterous girls posing for a school photograph. While the children are shown laughing, the title reveals that the original photograph was taken in Berlin in 1939. The girls are unaware of the profound events that surround them. “The contemporary viewer is summoned to consider their anonymous faces as memorials, now inscrutable and silent,” said Genetta McLean, director of the Bates College Museum of Art.

Boltanski was born in Paris the day the city was liberated in 1944 to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. “I was born while my parents were divorced. In order to save my father’s life, they staged a fight and afterwards divorced officially. My mother then hid my father underneath the floor of our home for the duration of the war. My mother couldn’t go out to register my birth since there was still shooting in the streets,” said Boltanski in Lessons of Darkness, an interview published by The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

The exhibition will include additional prints by Boltanski, as well as numerous artist books that he has created.

Distinguished curator and scholar Robert Rainwater, assistant director of prints and photographs at the New York Public Library, will discuss Boltanski’s exhibit at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, in Room 104, Olin Arts Center, Bates College. A reception will follow Rainwater’s talk.

The Bates College Museum of Art is open to the public without charge, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Guided tours for schools and other groups are welcome. Call 207-786-6158 for more information.