Jason Lazarus: Live Archive

Jason Lazarus: Live Archive

The first West Coast museum exhibition for the up-and-coming Chicago-based artist

Jason Lazarus, Phase I/Live Archive (photo credit: Courtesy, Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF)
Jason Lazarus, Phase I/Live Archive (photo credit: Courtesy, Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF)

“I am interested in the role of the contemporary artist as hell-raiser, prophet, failure, and historian.” — Jason Lazarus

Rising star and Jewish artist, Jason Lazarus has his first West Coast museum exhibition. Live Archive explores collective public archives, personal memory, and the role of photography and collecting in contemporary art and identity. Chicago-based Lazarus is known for using both traditionally developed photography and found and solicited images and texts in collaborative installations and innovative crowd-sourced, online community projects. Lazarus’ work simultaneously directs attention inward toward the personal and outward toward the historical. The three main aspects of the exhibition map onto three key elements of the Jewish experience: memory, prophecy, and learning.

A few words from the curators

The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) presentsJason Lazarus: Live Archive, the first West Coast museum exhibition of rising star and Jewish artist Jason Lazarus (American, b. 1975). The Chicago-based artist is known for using both traditional photography and found or solicited images and texts to create installations that explore private and public realms of experience, and the ways they often overlap. Equal parts art maker, collector, archivist, and organizer, Lazarus actively engages the public in the creation and consideration of his work.

The exhibition includes a site-specific installation of Lazarus’ ongoing archive of over 3,000 donated photographs deemed “too hard to keep”; an installation of re-created signs from the Occupy Movement; a piece featuring a student of classical piano learning to play Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne in F Minor, op. 55, no. 1, live in the gallery; and several recent photographs and mixed media pieces.

“The Contemporary Jewish Museum is deeply committed to showing the work of significant, working Jewish artists,” says Lori Starr, CJM Executive Director. “Jason Lazarus is on the art world’s radar, doing compelling work that emphasizes dialogue and engagement with the public, something that is truly at the core of the CJM’s mission. We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to share the full range of Jason’s art practice with West Coast audiences.”

The exhibition

Jason Lazarus: Live Archive includes seventeen original art works—a combination of process-based installations and static objects.

In his ongoing archive project Too Hard To Keep (2010–present), Lazarus collects photographs that people cannot bear to keep, but also do not want to destroy and displays them in site-specific installations. Submissions have included photos of friends, family, pets, places, objects, and more. As of early 2013, the lifelong archival project has garnered more than 3,000 images. Lazarus does not ask why the photograph is painful to keep, and exhibits them anonymously alongside other entries, in no particular order. Some images, marked private by the donor, are exhibited with their face to the wall. The intimate installation of excerpts from the archive is accompanied by an invitation from the artist to contribute to the collection. Submissions can be mailed, emailed, or sent via text. Visit thecjm.org for more information.

For Untitled (2013), which was conceived as a “parable of learning,” Lazarus has invited Paul Dab, a graduate student of classical piano at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, to learn Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne in F Minor, op. 55, no. 1 within the Museum. Over the course of the exhibition, the student will fill the gallery with the sounds of learning, including mistakes, triumphs, and, inevitably, the student’s own stylistic interpretation of the piece. Inspired by his own experiences as an artist-educator, Lazarus puts the process of learning and the accumulation of knowledge on display rather than concealing it, with the hope of creating a contemplative space for viewers to reflect on their own relationship to learning and creativity. For the schedule of weekly practice sessions, visit thecjm.org.

Phase I/Live Archive is a growing collection of re-created protest signs from the Occupy Movement, the international protest movement against social and economic inequality that began on September 17, 2011, in New York’s Zuccotti Park. By October 9, 2011, Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in more than ninety-five cities across eighty-two countries. These unprecedented events and their extensive media exposure throughout the world proved ripe for artistic investigation and perfectly suited to Lazarus, whose interests in various types of image production, the archive, and the artistic genre of social practice become entwined in the work’s ongoing development.

The signs displayed in Phase I/Live Archive were re-created from media-sourced images in workshops facilitated by the artist. During these workshops, participants translated the image of a sign into a literal, three-dimensional copy, using the same or similar materials to duplicate its text as well as any creases, bends, and tears. As part of this exhibition, Lazarus will lead a sign-making workshop on Sunday, February 16, 2014. The workshop is free and open to the public. Visit thecjm.org for more information.

Several other recent works using photography-centric media will also be on display. The different strategies employed by Lazarus to create these 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.

Jason Lazarus: Live Archive is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It is on view through March 23, 2014.