BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Jason Lazarus

March 19 – Jun 18, 2013

The BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works exhibition series is designed to showcase 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. For his second solo exhibition at the MCA, Chicago-based artist Jason Lazarus continues to develop his practice in new directions, presenting new and recent projects. Known primarily for his photographic works, Lazarus has in recent years expanded his artistic scope, conflating the role of the artist with that of collector, archivist, and curator. Above all, Lazarus is a sign-maker—sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically—creating works that simultaneously direct attention inward, toward the personal, and outward, toward the historical. This dual provocation highlights the referential nature of Lazarus’s practice, with the artist inviting us to revel, scrutinize, imagine, and wonder along with him.

A key component of BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Jason Lazarus is the presentation of what the artist refers to as “a public parable of learning.” Inspired by his experiences as an educator—Lazarus teaches courses in photography at both Columbia College Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—and reflecting on how his own processes of learning, failing, and persevering often play out in the public spaces of museums, galleries, and classrooms, Lazarus presents this parable through 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. This piece is significant for Lazarus in that it relates to his interest in both music and the gesture; Chopin was instrumental in transforming the genre of the Nocturne, a dreamy form of composition for piano, from a practice exercise into a powerful end-piece. Thus, throughout the run of the exhibition, the student fills the galleries with the sounds of learning—mistakes, triumphs, and, eventually, the student’s own stylistic interpretation of the piece. Other works, from photographs to installations, will accompany and augment this parable by reflecting Lazarus’s own development of a unique vision and voice, in addition to his musings on how learning often becomes (mis)identified as progress in a larger sociohistorical context.

This exhibition is organized by Steven L. Bridges, Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Jason Lazarus