Monday, January 18, 2010

Proper Noun of the Week #27: Jonah Jacobs

As we make our way to the biggest weekend of gallery openings in Cleveland so far this year (and decade!), I'm increasingly getting the feeling that 2010 is going to be a banner year for the Cleveland art world. There is great energy and vigor at work here, under the surface and in the galleries and co-ops and repurposed industrial lofts across the city. I'm looking for big things from some of the folks I already know and am excited for the future of those folks I haven't yet had the fortune to cross paths with.

Jonah Jacobs is one of the folks in the second category I have a good feeling about - his work is strong, concise, and persuasive. He creates stirring art from unconventional and found objects, attempting to alter ordinary consumables and use them to meld insightful and incisive ecological and organic commentary with a high-color collage aesthetic. As William Rupnik, curator of Jacobs's upcoming exhibit at Rupnik Gallery,notes, "while not his intent to create pieces that are exact representations of biological structures, Jonah's artwork is a paradigm of an advancing species, with each new piece cultivating a new habitation."

Jonah recently took the time to conduct this interview with me as he prepared for the show. His answers - including possibly the best birthday fantasy ever - are below and well worth the read.

1) How long have you been in Cleveland?

All of my life with the exception of a few years for college and about four years in the Army. So I'd say close to thirty years.

And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

I grew up in Cleveland but I was born in Denmark.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

Trying to float a post-Halloween pumpkin down a creek with a lit candle in it, giving up, and then lying on the bank of the creek staring up at the stars with my girlfriend.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

I love our park system. Sometimes I go for long walks and just observe nature. I am kind of obsessed with the minutiae and structural qualities of nature. I also draw inspiration from the dilapidation all around us here in Cleveland. I long to transform space, and Cleveland has a lot of space which obviously needs to be transformed. Rust is a perfect metaphor is some ways. Rust is also something I have often tried to mimic in my art. Rust is one of nature's ways of transforming (albeit slowly) what is not being used. Humans and nature are always battling one another for permanence and decay, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Cleveland's crumbling infrastructure. My art also retains this tension, for since I use reclaimed materials to create organic looking structures -- my art inherently is a struggle, and I hope a balance, between decay, reclamation, and permanence.

4) If it was your birthday and you decided to have a Cleveland-centric blow-out bash, how would you celebrate? That is, what would you do, where would you do it, etc.?

I don't usually have big bashes on my birthday, but if I could I think I would enlist a mad scientist to make giant robot sized versions of Superhost and Dorothy Fuldheim and then have them duke it out in the warehouse district. Whoever wins could then have the honor of being mayor of Cleveland as well as free dinners for a year from Sokolowski's.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

The contraceptive museum -- it's a hidden oddity that's interesting and sure to make any guest feel slighty uncomfortable. Which I think is the way all visitors should feel while here.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?


7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

Stop investing in "big" projects and instead invest more in an assortment of smaller projects like the Gordon Square Arts District.

To meet Jonah and check out his work yourself, stop by the William Rupnik Gallery this Friday for the opening of his solo show, "Fragmentation: Seed, Spore and Polyp." The gallery is located at 1667 E 40th Street in Cleveland. Check out the gallery's website here.

And if you found this post interesting, check out previous Proper Noun of the Week conversations about Cleveland and culture with the following interesting folks: Frank Revy, Bill Rupnik, Mina Hoyle, Brendan Walton, Leia Alligator, Arabella Proffer, Becca Riker, Greg Ruffing, Mallorie Freeman, Dave Desimone, J.R. Bennett, Jeff & Mike from CLE Clothing Co, Paulius Nasvytis, Lawrence Daniel Caswell, Curtis Thompson, John Ewing, Shannon Okey, John G, Sean Bilovecky, Dana Depew, Fred Wright, Amanda Montague, Ryan Weitzel, Garrett Komyati, and Vince Slusarz.

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