Incarcerated for 70 months in the federal prison system, artist Jesse Krimes produced artwork during his sentence in order to understand his identity and place in the world as a person who was temporarily banished from it. Krimes used contraband prison sheets, newspaper clippings and commissary supplies to create secret works, which he then smuggled out through the mail piece by piece and only saw united after his release. The resulting pieces, Apokaluptein: 16389067 and series of sculptures collectively entitled Purgatory, provide a powerful critique of the commodity culture that fosters criminal behavior as well as the broken system that punishes transgression rather than seeking reform. The artist draws special attention to the revelatory intent of his work by deriving the title Apokaluptein: 16389067 from the Greek root of the word apocalypse, meaning revelation or uncovering, and adding his Federal Bureau of Prisons identification number. By using materials found in prison, Krimes both exposes and defies the institution that worked to isolate and dehumanize him, but he also ruminates on the prisoner’s necessarily mediated relationship to the world beyond the prison’s walls, a world that produces false idols and encourages individuals to become offenders. These works reflect on Dante and Hegel, dysfunctional institutions, dehumanization and objectification, and the relationship between the inside and outside worlds of prison and society. Together, Apokaluptein: 16389067 and Purgatory provide a personal and apocalyptic response to his incarceration where, as the artist states, "all measure within prison seems to collapse, leaving only time to reflect."
Nicole Fleetwood, Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies, and Donna Gustafson, Andrew W. Mellon Liaison for Academic Programs and Curator, organized the exhibition at the Zimmerli Art Museum with the assistance of Kimiko Matsumura, PhD Candidate in Art History and Dara Alter, MFA Candidate, Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Supported by income from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment Fund and the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund
This exhibition is part of "Marking Time: Prison Arts and Activism,"
an interdisciplinary conference at Rutgers University from October 8-10 that is organized by the Institute for Research on Women at Rutgers. The conference is made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. The conference has also been made possible by generous funding from the Puffin Foundation Ltd. Conference attendance is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Conference co-sponsors: Alfa Art Gallery; American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch Project; American Studies Department at Rutgers—New Brunswick; Art Library, Rutgers—New Brunswick; Heldrich Hotel; Institute for Women and Art; Mountainview Program; New Brunswick Public Library; Office of the Executive Dean of Academic Affairs, School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers—New Brunswick; Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Rutgers—New Brunswick; PUEG Center at UNAM (National University of Mexico); Rutgers—Camden Center for the Arts; School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers—Newark; University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project; William James Association; Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers.
A video about the creation of Apokaluptein: 16389067
is available on YouTube
Apokaluptein: 16389067 (earth detail), 2010-2013
Federal prison bed sheets, images transferred from The New York Times, color pencil, and graphite
Collection of the artist