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Ground Level Projects

Ground Level Projects

July 29, 2009 to June 27, 2010

Spertus’s Ground Level Projects was a dynamic new initiative consisting of a series of artist commissions for Spertus’ glass-enclosed, street-level vestibule space. The project engaged four artists over a year-long period, aiming to foster creative encounters that investigated, challenged, and expanded traditional perceptions of the Jewish experience. The resulting projects were visible from the street, bridging the realms of public and private space and encouraging passers-by to enter into a meaningful and thought-provoking dialogue with the works on view as well as with Spertus. The commissions were accessioned into Spertus Museum’s collection, enhancing its growing contemporary art holdings and reflecting its innovative exhibition program.


Ground Level Projects: Sheree Hovsepian

July 29, 2009 - October 18, 2009

Sheree Hovsepian’s work, Portraits of Young Jewish Women, 2008-2009 is motivated by discussions with family and friends about “Middle Eastern Envy”— the idea
that Middle Eastern Americans harbor a sense of envy towards Jewish Americans in issues surrounding acculturation into American society, and further prompted by the controversy surrounding Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s appearance at Columbia University in 2007. Through this work, Hovsepian posed the question: “In today's climate, what does it mean for an Iranian American woman to photograph Jewish American women?”

Hovsepian’s work in photography and video addresses issues of representation, especially with regard to her dual Middle Eastern and American identities. She acknowledges the difficulty of developing an autonomous identity in the face of preconceived notions and feels that “as a female artist of Iranian descent, it is often imagined that I naturally inhabit a radical space. My body alone without speech is already located in the discourse of struggle.” Informed by this knowledge, she produces images that emphasize her role as the artist yet are open to interpretation.

Born in Iran and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Hovsepian has exhibited around the country and abroad, and currently lives and works in New York.


Ground Level Projects: Jason Lazarus

October 28, 2009 - January 10, 2010

Jason Lazarus’ new work The top of the tree gazed upon by Anne Frank while in hiding (Amsterdam, 2008) is part of his ongoing series of conceptual self-portraits that focus on his role as an artist experiencing the world. Recorded at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, this video is a contemporary consideration of an iconic figure in Jewish history, while also representing the artist himself.

In her diary, Anne Frank often reflects upon a chestnut tree, the top of which was her only connection to the outside world. She wrote, "….from my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind….as long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless sky, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy…." With this poignant moving image, Lazarus invites viewers to share in the act of looking.

Lazarus has exhibited widely around the country and abroad and received an Artadia Artist grant in 2006 and the distinguished Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Emerging Artist grant in 2008.


Ground Level Projects: Jan Tichy

March 10, 2010 - June 27, 2010

Jan Tichy’s installations address the multi-layered narratives of urban spaces and architectural contexts. His site-specific commission animated the ground floor vestibul focusing attention on the impact of materials to transform our experience.

Jan Tichy was born in Prague. He studied at Hebrew University, Musrara School of Photography and New Media, and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel and completed his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work was included in Israel’s Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale.

This project was supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Related programming supported by Denis Weil in memory of Jacqueline Weil-Bloch. Spertus exhibits supported in part by a CityArts Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Harry and Sadie Lasky Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.