Jonah Jacobs’ Tactile Microcosms
By Tom Wachunas
EXHIBIT: Post Human Biomes, work by Jonah Jacobs, THROUGH MAY 13 at Journey Art Gallery, 431 4th Street NW, downtown Canton / Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday Noon to 6 PM / or by appointment 330.546.7061 www.journeyartgallery.com
biome: a major ecological community type, e.g. a tropical rain forest, grassland, or desert (Merriam-Webster)
At first blush, the title of the Jonah Jacobs exhibit at Journey Art Gallery bodes vaguely apocalyptic. While “Post Human Biomes” might initially smack of scarred environs or ecosystems surviving some sort of Malthusian catastrophe, this is decidedly not the message conveyed by Mr. Jacobs’ intriguing visual explorations.
These are tactile clusters of upcycled materials that are, in a way, three-dimensional documents of the artist’s intensely meticulous manual labors. In a larger sense, those repetitive labors have yielded mesmerizing forms that hover invitingly somewhere between familiar surfaces and mysterious, inflated 3D molecular maps. You might call these structures, at once simple and complex, discrete metaphorical ecologies wherein the changeable climate is color itself – vibrant, even joyous.
The substances that comprise these mixed media sculptural works are common if not somewhat unconventional. A good example is the large wall piece, a half-dome configuration called Peridium I (referring to the outer, spore-bearing coat of fungi such as mushrooms): egg cartons, oatmeal, salt, sand, plaster and model railroad gravel. Materials in other works include cotton swabs and finely shredded fabrics and papers. Don’t be denied a surprise by looking too quickly at the modestly-scaled The Living Word. The uniformly miniscule pieces of green-dyed paper (hint: it’s newsprint) make it appear to be a simple swatch of artificial turf. But as is the case with all the pieces here, really close scrutiny is its own reward.
Another admirable enticement here is the inclusion of many smaller-scaled (roughly hand-sized), affordably priced modules. Each is an elegant unit in itself, yet made so that buyers could design and assemble multi-part, in-home pieces of their own.
There is a sensual, spectacular density in Jacobs’ motifs of repeated small forms congealing to make larger systems or symbiotic “communities.” Often seething with opulent, bristling textures, they can alternately suggest animal, foliate, or mineral microcosms, not unlike coral reefs, lush gardens, or exotic geodes. These constructions are wholly beguiling transformations of ordinary ingredients into extraordinary evocations of nature’s intricate and fecund architectures.
PHOTOS, from top (first three courtesy Judi Krew/ SnarkyArt Studio, bottom photo from Jonah Jacobs Facebook page): Installation view, Acretion (36” diameter) in foreground; Blue and Violet Polyp I; The Lines Begin to Blur; Peridium I (28” diameter)