About the Photographer
American, b. 1975
Jason Lazarus refers to his ongoing series, Self portrait as an artist, as “the axis” of his practice. The variety of subject matter, genres, (including documentary, performance, and constructed imagery) and techniques he employs in his conceptual self-portraits underscores Lazarus’s experimental bent. The disparate appearance and suggestive title of this body of work indicate that the artist—as both individual and artistic archetype— is the series’ conceptual thread. The variety of imagery in the Self portrait as an artist series also signals the artist’s interest in revealing interconnections between people in contemporary society. As such, Lazarus draws on the moments when the private, the public, the monumental, and the banal merge. As the photographer puts it, he explores “how we all do things like watch a solar eclipse with the rest of the world and then look down and realize we have gum on our shoe.”
Lazarus’s descriptive titles help intertwine the various subjects and perspectives that are mixed within the series’ photographs. He gives one of his minimal images of a night sky a sense of specificity and political significance by titling it Obama election night rally, the sky above, November 4, 2008 (2008). Because Lazarus only shows a spotlight illuminating a black sky, the viewer relies on his words to access the image’s content. As Lazarus strips the scene of all its distinctive elements—the iconic figure of the president-to-be, his supporters, the Grant Park setting, etc.— he encourages us to summon our own visuals and memories from the night of the rally instead. The minimal information in this image also perhaps reflects the point of view of a single spectator--someone trying to process the magnitude of the event but only able to register a small piece of it.
Like Obama election night rally, the image, Spencer Elden in his Last Year of High School (2008), implicates the viewer’s life in broader cultural and historical narratives. Although Spencer Elden made his debut as the swimming infant on Nirvana’s famous album, Nevermind, in Lazarus’s portrait, made seventeen years after the album, Elden’s life appears more prosaic. No longer an enthusiastic, underwater baby, he stands on a wet suburban porch, wearing faded jeans and a blank expression. The contrast between Elden’s depiction as a baby and an adolescent chronicles not only the subject’s coming of age, but also the maturation of Nirvana-followers who grew up with the American grunge ethos the band embodied. Such cultural allusions connect viewers to the unassuming teen. By implying, rather than explicitly presenting, common cultural reference points, Lazarus’s work suggests that although the artist can give form to ideas, the meaning of work ultimately exists in the viewer.
Jason Lazarus was born in Kansas City in 1975 and now lives and works in Chicago. He completed a BA at DePaul University in Chicago (1998) and an MFA from Columbia College Chicago (2003). He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship award (2009); the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award (2008); and the Emerging Artist Artadia Grant (2006); among other honors. His work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Milwaukee Museum of Art; and the Bank of America LaSalle Photography collection. Currently, Lazarus teaches at Columbia College Chicago, Robert Morris College, and the Marwen Foundation.