On August 17, 2017, a 70-mile strip of solar eclipse totality swept across the United States. Solar Eclipse (August 21, 2017), an installation of used, handmade solar-eclipse viewers made by people for this eclipse-event, represents a partial selection from the artist’s growing archive. Eclipse viewers employing a pinhole aperture emerge from a (pre-photographic) deep history of vision and representation. For the artist, these one-time-use eclipse viewers simultaneously emerge from history and portend complicated implications for the future of vision and representation. Embodied in the present moment, the eclipse viewers–constructed from the runoff of late-capitalism–becomes our lens.
Often responding to exhibition context and issues of social justice, for his installation at the Orlando Museum of Art, Lazarus chose to recreate a detail he found within a painting from the Museum’s collection. Thomas Mickell Burnham’s 1840 painting The Young Artist depicts an African American boy posing for a portrait being drawn by a white boy, while other children look on. The drawing is a simple outline in white chalk. It is a cheerful scene with everyone enjoying the young artist’s display of talent. At the time The Young Artist was painted, Burnham was working in Boston, then the intellectual center of the American abolitionist movement and his painting was readily understood by Boston’s public as a message of racial harmony and opposition to slavery. The Young Artist optimistically depicts America’s children, its future, putting aside issues of race to play together.
Lazarus’s The Young Artist (1840/2018) recreates the detail of young artist’s white chalk portrait, dramatically enlarged and uses strips of white LED lights as his image-making tool, a medium he regards as an extension of his photographic process. Rather than framing a picture through a camera, Lazarus focuses on the charged lines he found in the painting. Burnham’s portrait of a young African-American boy by a white companion is transfigured into a still incomplete portrait whose gaze is now settled on us with retinal jarring intensity. Additionally, Lazarus considers the path through the galleries to and from his installation and the source painting (now on view in the Orlando Museum of Art’s “People and Places” exhibition, currently in the Carl and Gini Weyand Gallery) an integral part of the work.
As social justice is an important aspect of his practice, Lazarus has woven into this installation the additional roles of a call-for-entry* and call-for-action** in support of the Southeastern US Equity Scholarship, a new program which enables artists of color residing in the Southeastern United States to attend ACRE (Artists Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) fully-funded in the summer of 2019.
*A fully-funded scholarship for artists of color living in the Southeastern US to produce new work, engage with international artists and curators, and exhibit work in Chicago. More information about this summer 2018 opportunity can be found at https://www.acreresidency.org/application/scholarships.
**For those with means to do so, the artist is seeking monetary donations of any size to help fund the second year (and future years) of the Southeastern US Equity Scholarship–a scholarship for artists of color residing in the Southeastern United States. To donate directly to the ACRE Southeastern US Equity Scholarship, please contact Emily Green, ACRE Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Since 2014, Lazarus has been fabricating reversed-tone photographs that feature a small magenta-colored focusing dot. The viewer is encouraged to stare at the dot for a period of time, close their eyes and engage a new vision of the original image as an afterimage—one that reveals itself over a period of a few seconds, and often in stages, as some details are either slow to appear or may not appear at all.
As with Niketown, Magnificent Mile (Afterimage Study) source images are typically charged with social and political content. In this case, Lazarus has chosen a reportage image captured in front of the Niketown store on Michigan Avenue during the protest over the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald on Black Friday, 2015. Taking over the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago, usually well-protected from moments of assembly and political dissent during the busiest shopping day of the year, the protesters linked arms to block the Nike flagship storefront as a political pressure point, disrupting the highly symbolic flow of capitalism on a day normally used as an economic litmus test and key predictive indicator, gaining impressive coverage and pointed, if momentary, visibility for police brutality in Chicago.” (Hansen Mulford)