Jason Lazarus Interview Part 1

I think I’ve mentioned before what a fan I am of Jason Lazarus’ work. His current show up in Chicago, This is gonna take one more night is full of smart, endearing, compelling and the Jay-Laz-brand-of-humor images that have come to define him and his work. I decided to do ask Jason some questions about his show. I also just learned that Jason and I will be showing together in a 2-person show here in Chicago of our photographs from the Wright Commission Jason and I both did last year. So our conversation will continue into a 2 part interview to be posted closer to our opening of that show in May.
Jason’s solo show closes tomorrow and he ends it with an all day temporary installation in the space. In addition also on hand will be a self-published catalogue created for the occasion of the exhibition. The catalog is in an edition of 100, each catalogue includes a small editioned print (shown in the attachment), an interview with Karen Irvine from the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and 40 pages of full color recent work…$100.00

Join Jason Saturday, April 12th from 11am – 5pm
This is gonna take one more night
Bucket Rider Gallery
835 West Washington
Chicago IL 60607

Here’s Part 1 of the interview:
How are artistic decisions different now vs. 2003.
What things have you held onto?

the self portrait as an artist series is still important today, and to me is the main artery of the work as it was in 2003. in that series in particular, i’ve held on to the notion of ‘play’ in the work in order to penetrate, reflect, etc certain themes and ideas. the difference is that i don’t have as much work in the self portrait series that is focused on the art world as institution or the notion of an artist in contemporary society…there is work now that is simultaneously political and experiential–standing in cabrini green, underneath a fireworks display that is named ‘america’s answer’…and so on.

I’ve known you for a long time and know you to be well schooled in the traditions of photography. (In fact your casual snaps always surprise the hell out of me). Though in your artistic practice you seem to push up against that. Do you see a difference btwn. the two? Is one more ‘art’ than another?

No not at all…I am always pining to make work that is like eggleston/christian patterson and do occassionally. i think i am focused on one way of working right now and i have to find that right time/place to flex those other muscles–pure visual play…although i think that is one thing i may work on in vienna, austria–i’ll be there for a residency for 2 months this summer. i always fall back to some kind of conceptual structure, and that is my strength i think. i like the pressure this approach causes to really investigate an idea.

Your work combines photographic and artistic practice in a few ways; it makes the personal apparent, it addresses social issues and finally retains some sense of irony and cleverness (or straight up comedy). Often it does this in one picture. Is one more important than another?

to me what is important is, as it does in the self portrait as an artist series, it veers back and forth. in the exhibition that is up right now…you have a picture that is a long exposure of fireworks entitled, “Entire three minute duration of ‘America’s Answer’ fireworks package” and this picture is 59×74″ and is next to a 16×20″ picture of a plant sitting on a windowsill at night called “End of summer lover, the plant on her windowsill”. not only do these pictures play off each other physically but one is very interior, brooding, still, and the other is very public, political, and visually seductive. playing in the continuum of these two poles is what makes photography fun, interesting, and satisfying…that series is about the notion of an examined life–and that can contain many seemingly disparate elements. the place where those pieces coalesce is my interest.

When speaking with my class at your exhibit the other day, several of them commented that hearing your explanation and discussion of the work made it complete. Is there a concern that ambiguity might win over narrative?

yes, very much so. i have the self portrait series which is visually disparate, a diptych from the Living with a portrait series, a picture from the Wright commission, and a diptych from an artist book called “The last rose of summer on my nightstand,” as well as a back room filled with 3 pieces from the Nirvana project. the show is demanding of the viewer and i don’t assume everyone wants to come along for the ride. on the other hand, it’s the show i wanted to mount because there are some interesting intersections among the multiple series and i wanted to investigate that. i have faith that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. also, chicago is my artistic hometown, so the place to mount a show like this is here, and hopefully some people navigate it to their delight!

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