Word has it that Yuri Arajs, a fixture of the Twin Cities art scene in recent years, is moving on. Arajs was the curator of the now-defunct Outsiders and Others gallery, a bastion of support for nonmainstream artists of all kinds. He was an enthusiastic booster of local artists, especially those who might not get attention otherwise. A show of his work at Rogue Buddha Gallery in Northeast Minneapolis is a fitting farewell.
Arajs's work has tended toward minimal, abstract landscapes. His current show, Reclaimed Memories, introduces found photographs and objects into this aesthetic to produce some fascinating image and effects. Arajs based the pieces in the show on the narrative within each photograph. "The photo had a story to tell me," he says. "I listened to it and what came back was my own version of a memory that is not mine. But I have now reclaimed these memories as my own and this is what they look like."
The images in the show are all old black-and-white photographs, and are populated by solitary figures and small groups, sailing ships, old homesteads, and children. The paper, the frames, even postal marks with a year and place, add context. But the pieces are more than interesting artifacts. Arajs's imprint is true to the promise of the show's title in that he uses these objects and images to create intriguing compositions that add to the mystery embedded in the lost worlds of the photographs. A man sits on a slanted fence rail in a dark suit, his expression impassive, an image that’s paired with a chicken wishbone and a small anchor. Two men stand against a backdrop of a mountain of timber juxtaposed with iron dust and cobalt acrylic, "No. 2" in red at the center. Arajs transforms simple scenes into vivid, layered, uncertain landscapes to explore–a little like memory itself.
He, too, will be missed.
Reclaimed Memories continues at Rogue Buddha Gallery through July 27.