Exhibition Review: Mark Ruwedel at Yossi Milo
Mark Ruwedel Hell and Home May 4 - June 24, 2017
Yossi Milo Gallery. 245 Tenth Avenue, NY NY 10001
Written by John Hutt
Mark Ruwedel is a photographer of the old school. His perfectly framed and composed black and white images are an exercise in precision and concept. It is easy to overlook these kinds of images in today’s world of bright colors and huge formats, but there is something to be said for taking a moment to enjoy and observe a master at work. The most recent show at Yossi Milo, Hell and Home, (May 4 – June 24th) shows the artist at his best. Hell and Home are actually two different series of work, but play very well together. Hell is the result of years photographing places named after the devil, hell, or anything similarly infernal. The number of these places is astounding, and looking at the prints, one can see a certain similarity between all the Devil's Canyons and Hells Gates. Rocky, foreboding, and always lacking any human activity. Is this because the place was named after hell and therefore people were put off from living there, or is this place named after hell because it is inhospitable for people to live there? Many of the images show rushing water, the Devil’s Throat being the worst place to try to maneuver a boat down. The prints are eerily detailed, every one from Pictures of Hell shows either a disappearing horizon winding into oblivion, or an expanse of nothingness. Pictures of Hell can be seen as a part of, or an extension of, the artists other series of western landscapes Westward the Course of Empire, as they cover similar subject matter – barren landscapes, roads forward all shot with meticulous detail.
Home has a wider brief, encapsulating three series that focus on homes and houses, all abandoned. Home contains Wonder Valley Survey; a collection of homes in the desert that are abandoned and now falling apart after years of neglect. Mostly prefabricated, and shot in the same style and framing, the houses of Wonder Valley Survey stand as a bleak testament to the people that have left. Due to the negligence of the houses and the scenery, the graffiti and the disrepair of the edifices, it seems that these houses are not cared for, their owners have left, and it was a waste of time to try to live in such miserable climates to begin with. Another work in Hell; Three Domes has an entirely different statement. These are Fulleresque domed houses, also abandoned, but rather than conjuring ideas of humanity’s wasteful arrogance, these are monuments to humanity’s idealism, building toward a future with modern and efficient houses. It seems somehow worse that these are abandoned and relics of a bygone future that never happened rather than the abandoned bungalows and shacks we see in the rest of Home.
Hell and Home is an excellent look at the work of Ruwedel, and it shows that his pieces deserve closer inspection, and deserve the time it takes to absorb and appreciate them.
All photos © Mark Ruwedel, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery