Oct 31st 2009

Jason Lazarus: Orion Over Baghdad and Daniel Rich: 1989-2009

@ Andrew Rafacz Gallery

835 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607

Opening Saturday, October 31st, from 5PM - 8PM

On view through Saturday, December 12th

Over the last several years, Jason Lazarus has developed a body of work split between conceptual photography captured with a camera and vernacular, found images shot by someone else and appropriated in various ways. This has culminated with pieces such as Recordings (“Big Storm” January 30, 1967, Mom), which is currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, an installation of found snapshot photographs with text and other markings on their reverse, presented directly on the wall with the back becoming the visible field. The viewer is left to wonder what the corresponding images might look like, but ultimately, the signifier becomes an end in itself and the need for an image to complete the equation disappears. The trace is what is left and it reveals a power and presence that may have been initially underestimated.

With his new installation Orion over Baghdad, Lazarus continues to examine the evolution of personal snapshot writing as it’s been refitted by current technological advancements. Collecting the titles of digital images posted by soldiers in Iraq to the website Flickr.com, the artist has amassed an archive of new snapshot writing. He has assembled these texts as uninterrupted fields produced as large-scale silver gelatin prints, formally acknowledging the historical trope of war photography. The result is a memorial to what is not there, the collective trace of a seemingly infinite number of charged moments. As the war lingers, Lazarus’ response functions as an open-ended bookend, addressing a situation that has gone beyond its limit but demands more than ever to be acknowledged. As soldiers continue to upload of content in real-time, the way war is mediated has changed.

Presented in the same aesthetic as the large-scale works, Lazarus has also singled out one hundred of the most intriguing titles and created individual photograms that draw the viewer more intimately into the war experience. The title of the exhibition comes from one of these photograms and documents a single soldier’s experience. Orion over Baghdad suggests one soldier looking beyond his or her terrestrial confines and reflecting on the vastness of the world. It is also an apt title for a project that is engaged in the same concerns. As with much of Lazarus’ conceptual photographs, the private and the public are intertwined with each other, reminding the viewer that there is always something larger than them, however distanced from it they may be.

Daniel Rich’s work focuses on the architectural image as a powerful vehicle for the inscription of history. Rich’s interest in the role architecture plays in the expression of power, authority, religion, and nationalism, results in paintings with open political connotations- an allegory of the social environment his subjects are drawn from. Recently, the continued turmoil in the Middle East such as the War in Iraq, the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict and the unfolding events in Pakistan and Afghanistan have figured predominantly in his work. The artist uses the Internet and newspapers to find the source images for his paintings and searches for this material in response to paying close attention to the news of the day.

With his new series of three paintings exhibited here, Rich has turned his attention towards events that are more directly personal to him. Growing up in a divided Germany under military occupation, the artist was fundamentally aware of the trauma of German fascism and militarism. He left in 1996, but the turbulence of those times and his own witness to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe has always remained with him. This year reflects the twentieth anniversary of the reunification of Germany and the fall of the Soviet Union. He has chosen to focus on the three Berlin airports, important locations in that city’s central role during the Cold War, and signifiers for Germany’s turbulent history during the last Century.

Berlin Tempelhof Airport was built in 1923. Adolph Hitler wanted it to be the most important airport in Europe, an integral part of his “world-capital” Germania. Hitler’s Architect, Albert Speer greatly expanded the terminal building and it is still known to be one of the largest buildings in the world. It played an important role during the Berlin Airlift and the Cold War while under American Control. Berlin Tegel was built in 1948 by the French occupation forces in order to sustain the Berlin Airlift. It then served as the entryway to West Berlin after the Wall was built around the city by Communist East Germany. Berlin Schoenefeld Airport served as the only airport of the former “German Democratic Republic (DDR)” and is in use today. By bringing together these three charged locations, he has created a different kind of depiction of the important players, and how certain political tools continue to be present, long after those involved have gone.

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