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2900 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
Cleveland Plain Dealer | August 25, 2019
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Most people are collectors of one kind or another: instruments, tattoos, commemorative spoons, houseplants. With “Intercepted,” H-Space gallery presents a small collection of collectors, video artist Rachel Yurkovich and photographer-explorer Mike Majewski.
The two met while attending Cleveland Institute of Art, but they were brought together for the show by gallery founder and director Eli Gfell.
“I saw a common thread, in that they’re both sort of collecting moments, or these little instances,” said Gfell, who took a break during the installation of the show to chat. “Based on conversations that we’ve had, we all have similar collecting habits.”
Majewski’s work presents the most obvious collection, a series of nature photographs grounded by a table presenting the kind of informal natural sciences collection yielded by walks in the woods. This assortment hearkens to one’s inner wilderness scout — an egg, some feathers, a swath of tree bark, the head of a weathered fence post — in a loose constellation around a pocket notebook full of scratchy observations made by Majewski during his photo-walks.
These range from the cryptic — “forced admiration” — to the amateur poetic — “Just watching around me / the way the land stands still” — to the fully abstract, like a janky little drawing of a bee or a hole scratched through and filled from one page to the next.
Like his objects, Majewski’s images work together to re-create a walk in the woods. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact subject of any given image, but taken in aggregate, they form a strong collective impression.
If Majewski presents a torrent of dynamic still images, Yurkovich, by contrast, presents a handful of relatively static videos. What appear, at first, to be sequences of several minutes are revealed, upon closer observation, to be short clips in repeating loops, cross-faded to mask any glitches in the matrix.
Though video has a shorter history than other art media, its association with conventional narrative action draws out a reflexive expectation that something is bound to happen in Yurkovich’s play of images. But her meditation on a dead groundhog in “South Marginal Road” yields no greater drama than the clouding of flies, dispersed and regathering around the passing of cars.
In “Wendy Park (2),” the focus is the interplay of a water-logged blue plastic bag dancing with the wave action against the side of a pier or retaining wall. “Lakeside Avenue” features a bare-limbed tree, set against a monolithic brick building facade, adorned only with a ghostly shroud of plastic bags blowing in the wind.
With such minimalism, the territorial interaction of two seagulls in a Dollar Tree parking lot (“Dollar Tree”) or the intercession of a sole human passerby in “Sidari Foods” delivers high drama.
The moments being collected here by Yurkovich are discovered spontaneously in the process of coming or going, and most of them are shot on her phone camera.
“Most of these are just something I happen to go by during my routine, and then I do a U-turn and stop to film it,” said Yurkovich. “The commonality in what I’m looking for is the disruption, that this [thing] doesn’t belong here, because it’s nature — nature is supposed to stay where it’s supposed to, and manmade garbage is supposed to go in the trash can. That overlap is really interesting to me.”
Where Yurkovich’s discoveries can be somewhat incidental to her daily life, Majewski’s are generally pursued with intentionality.
“I always go out with the intent of taking photographs,” he says. “But I only ever develop work by being out with a camera.” The term photo-hunting seems to be a good fit; people rarely bring a hunting rifle with them unless they intend to go shooting, but once you’re out in the forest, it’s impossible to predict what game you might encounter.
Though developed with rather different means, ways and mechanisms, these two bodies of work converse beautifully, with Yurkovich’s meditative audio establishing a gentle Doppler-effect ambience as one moves through Majewski’s murmuration of images.
It may seem a bit strange to collect such ephemera, or to re-create the effect of a walk in the woods in a gallery setting. But in our media-saturated culture, with so many things clamoring for attention and the modern consciousness so easily divided between them, the art on display between Yurkovich and Majewski is not, perhaps, that of capturing or collecting, but the more foundational act of noticing.
In a world oversaturated by wonder and stimulation, the quiet work of paying attention is what falls by the wayside, except in the places that consciously curate it. H-Space has collected just such an exercise in attention, and those in need of respite would do well to pay it respect.
Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based artist and arts writer. She is a frequent contributor to Hyperallergic and other arts publications. Recently, she has served as the 2019 Arts-Writer-in-Residence at Spaces gallery. Her website is sarahrosesharp.com.
What: “Intercepted,” video, photos and an installation by Rachel Yurkovich and Mike Majewski.
When: Through Sunday, Sept. 1, by appointment.
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