Less than a week after a rainy Waterloo Arts Fest, Collinwood's Maria Neil Art Project (MNAP) hosts an opening reception from 5 to 10 p.m. this Friday for IRL, photographs and sculptures by Cleveland-based artist/photographer Brandon Juhasz.
Instead of traditionally documenting his environment through conventional photography, Juhasz reappropriates stock photos from the Internet, camera phones and other nontraditional sources to construct his imagery with a painterly sensibility. Juhasz's cyclical process includes selecting imagery, printing it out, physically constructing three-dimensional scenes and photographing them. By the end, his creative process comes around full circle, as the constructed imagery returns to a photographic medium.
"It is a world designed to make the real world feel lifeless and dirty," Juhasz has said. "A thousand years ago, you could have lived in a hut and been happy because you didn't know that life could be any better. But in 21st century America, you are constantly being shown how much better life can be, and that is what makes your life so fucking intolerable."
Juhasz found inspiration for IRL from this previous statement. This preceding quoted material is part of a Deadspin article from the end of last year: a rather scathing critique of the materialistic consumerism of Western civilization (and some might say Western civilization itself) through a review of the 2013 Williams-Sonoma Holiday Catalog.
Juhasz explains, "A riot of a read. This quote from the author was a great jumping off point. IRL is me thinking about and attempting to make art in an age where everything is accessible and fluid."
By reappropriating images found online, Juhasz's process explores technology and the Internet's role in the changing landscape of contemporary art, and most principally, photography.
"I wanted to make photographs not like how traditionally we think of photos but how photography functions in today's culture," he expounds. "How do everyday people use photography? It is much different than the point-and-shoot everyday snapshots of just a decade ago. Now it is data. Transformative, malleable, authorless. We feed the machine with our images and they can be taken, made viral, augmented, personalized, memed. So I use stock photos, found photos, Photoshop drawings, personal photos all mashed up to make these images that touch on a wide array of themes such as sex, desire, masculinity, power and failure. I just wanted to really relay how I feel it is to live today in a hybrid real and digital world."
IRL includes 13 new photographs and four sculptures. The Maria Neil Art Project's owners, Adam Tully and John Farina, have been busy making cosmetic changes to the exhibition space to complement Juhasz's work.
"Every piece in this exhibition incorporates images we encounter every day," says Tully. "Brandon turns upside down and reinterprets these commonalities into high art that is beautifully attractive."
Farina adds, "It's great to have the culmination of two years' worth of engaging work on the wall. We've complemented Brandon's colorful work with some equally colorful enhancements in the gallery."
Juhasz earned his BFA from Bowling Green State University. He's had solo exhibitions in Kansas City and St. Louis, as well as SPACES in Cleveland. Additionally, he's participated in group shows in Omaha, Washington D.C., New York, Atlanta; and locally at venues such as FORUM Art Space and Cleveland West Art League at 78th Street Studios, Bonfoey Gallery, MOCA Cleveland, Zygote Press, Cleveland Print Room, Cleveland State University, Dana Depew's legendary former Asterisk Gallery in Tremont and more.
Earlier this year, he curated It's All Been Done Before, a group exhibition at FORUM Art Space as part of Third Friday at 78th Street Studios. He's given lectures and presentations at Cleveland State University, MOCA Cleveland and PechaKucha Night Cleveland. In 2013, he was awarded a Creative Workforce Fellowship by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and Community Partnership for Arts and Culture.
Both Juhasz and MNAP are working on more projects around town. Juhasz is collaborating with Lauren Davies of the new 2731 Prospect Contemporary Art Space (formerly William Busta Gallery) to develop Foreign Exchange, an international online photography competition that will ultimately culminate with a group exhibition of the top six portfolios at 2731 Prospect. The competition's jurors are FlakPhoto editor Andy Adams, Transformer Station co-founder Laura Ruth Bidwell and GUP Magazine chief editor Katherine Oktober Matthews. Submissions will open in the fall. For more information, visit Foreignexchangephoto.com.
The Maria Neil Art Project has extended its efforts to promote local and regional art and artists beyond its gallery walls. Farina and Tully have partnered with their nearby neighbor Grovewood Tavern (17105 Grovewood Ave.) to showcase a revolving roster of local artists. This month's line-up includes abstract mixed media work by Leslye Arian, encaustic wax industrial ("Rust Belt") landscapes by Dawn Tekler and meditative paper constructions by Charity Thomas. For more information, visit Marianeilartproject.com, and click on "On Location."
Brandon Juhasz: IRL runs through August 16. Additional viewing hours are available Wednesdays from 3 to 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. The exhibition and all related programming are free.