Jake Scharbach: Hand to Hand

5 March - 13 April 2019

First Thursday Reception, March 7, 5-8 pm 


"I believe our intensely capitalistic techno-industrial civilization is poised on the brink of the greatest collapse in human history.  As an artist I am questioning our cultural conditioning by looking at historical remains, Greek and Roman being the most relevant, as they are the birthplace of recently globalized Western values.  My work analyzes the stories of our ancestors to discover the origins of our current belief systems and expose them to critique.  I reinterpret art historical images by collaging them with contemporary symbols and rendering them in realist painting.  This traditional approach allows the medium of oil painting to function as both comment and commentator.  Collapsing the timeline creates a more acute awareness of the negative behaviors codified in Western society, such as violence, greed, lust, ambition, and a failure to act in accordance with our long-term future.


The paintings included in this exhibition belong to three different series but share this theme. The series Black Boxes depicts flight data recorders from crashed airliners combined with classical portrait busts.  Both are messages retrieved from the ruins, sifted through, analyzed to construct stories ending in catastrophic failure.  In the series Update Installed I use vandalism, the term itself a throwback to when the Vandals invaded Rome, to ignore the past by defacing Greek and Roman portrait busts with the use of digital glitch, nihilistic text, fluorescent colors, golden mirrors and slap dash graffiti.  Finally, Prometheus Bound and Abduction of the Sabine Women are paintings from an ongoing series dealing with the epic origin stories of humans and civilization.  In Prometheus Bound, painted by Rubens in 1611, the creator of man is chained to a mountaintop while his liver is eaten by Zeus in the form of an eagle for eternity.  This is divine punishment for giving humans fire, the first technology.  I have reinterpreted this work to include cars and plastics, symbols of our own technological hubris and eternal condemnation.  Nicolas Poussin's Abduction of the Sabine Women, painted in 1633, tells a story of the first Roman emperor Romulus sets a vicious trap by inviting the neighboring Sabine people to a festival.  On his signal warriors slaughter the men and rape the women, an auspicious start for Western civilization.  Into this violent display I have injected a symbolic hurricane of todays consumerism and disconnection." 

-Jake Scharbach, 2019