Chicago-based artist Jason Lazarus continues to develop his practice in new directions. Known primarily for his photographic works, Lazarus has expanded his artistic scope in recent years, conflating the role of the artist with that of collector, archivist, and curator. Above all, Lazarus is a sign-maker—sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically—whose works simultaneously direct attention inward toward the personal and outward toward the historical.
The exhibition is organized around three key components: Untitled (2013) is a new project that the artist describes as “a public parable of learning.” Inspired by his experiences as an artist-educator—and reflecting on his own processes of learning, failing, and persevering—the artist presents weekly “performances” by a student of classical piano who will learn Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne in F minor, op. 55, no. 1. Over the course of the exhibition, the student will fill the galleries with the sounds of learning, including mistakes, triumphs, and, inevitably, the student’s own stylistic interpretation of the piece. The second component, Phase 1/Live Archive (2011–present), is a repository of Occupy Wall Street signs, re-created from images culled from print and online media. Lazarus made these signs collaboratively with the public and, in addition to displaying them in the gallery, will make the signs available to visitors to wield as they navigate the museum. This invitation to use and re-use the signs represents a new shift in Lazarus’s interest in the ways in which an archive is activated and how such activation contributes to and perhaps even reformulates the archive’s relationship to history and the accumulation of historical value. Finally, Lazarus will also debut new works using photography-centric media that continue to question the intersection of the public and private, the mundane and the marked event. The different strategies employed by Lazarus simultaneously assert, disrupt, and question how photographs can provide alternate ways to consider the use-value and meaning of images in an image-laden culture.
The BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works exhibition series showcases the best new work being made in Chicago, regardless of the status of the artist’s career—whether emerging or established, mid-career or undergoing reinvention. This exhibition is organized by Steven L. Bridges, Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.