Jake Scharbach is a painter, photographer, and video artist living in Brooklyn, New York. His work has been included in the group shows It's a Small Small World at Family Business, the Fountain Art Fair, Recovery at Marketplace Gallery, Convergence at Lexington Avenue Armory, the ACE Film Festival, Chasama, and Click! at the Brooklyn Art Museum.
On Saturday evening Scharbach presented seven series of stop-motion videos in the event at Microscope Gallery. Each series represents a particular approach to picture-making in combination with animation. His painterly style is a combination of Jim Nutt, George Condo, and Walt Disney. With their constant revisions and ultimate painted-over end, they might also call to mind the Existentialist despair of Giacometti.
In less than forty total minutes of video, these short, stop-motion videos show over five years of work in chronological order. They show the artist at work, demonstrating the arduous process of painting and repainting over single canvases, as well as constructing and deconstructing drawings. In some cases, the paintings are obliterated to become "screens" on which the videos can be projected. These series of videos, rather than merely documenting the evolution of an artwork, become, in the end, the art -- a kind of action painting.
The content of the videos is autobiographical, chronicling the artist's thought process and the directions he took in combining the mediums of paint, video, animation, and sound. Scharbach explained, "Doing stop-motion video was a way for me to have some control and to focus on the process -- literally the hours with brush in hand. One series led to the next. Each is an investigation of a particular approach to art-making. I've continued making the videos on and off while doing other work. It reminds me of what's important, what I'm after, why I paint at all."
The videos also incorporate sound, adding another layer to the autobiographical nature of the work. In most of the series, Scharbach plays the guitar and other found objects. In the Junkshop series and Human Nature, Scharbach worked with Adam Steiglitz on sound design and music.
The program for Saturday night included:
Wreckdom Series, 2007–2008
The first of Scharbach's series of stop-motion videos documents the process of a drawing to completion and then runs in reverse, decomposing the piece back to a blank sheet. The videos were shot on a pocket digital camera with a plastic tripod -- less sophisticated technology that was improved upon in later series. The video content is from Scharbach's sketches and photography. Scharbach added sound to the videos, using items he found in the studio as percussive instruments, noise, and guitar.
Recent Past Series, 2008
This series shows the process of Scharbach making two paintings and a drawing. The imagery is pulled directly from photos he took in 2007. Each picture is painted to completion, only to paint over it with the next picture. In the end, the picture is painted white -- erased to become a surface on which the video is projected on a continuous feeder loop between artifact and process.
Studio Tests Series, 2008
In these videos, an isolated image, photographed from faded advertisements, is used as a fixed blueprint. Change occurs while quietly transforming and distorting the whole. Scharbach said that he doesn't consider this series to be complete and may revisit it later.
Trophies Series, 2008
In this series, Scharbach creates portraits of trophies, each obscuring the previous one. The trophies were from a thrift store, which led to the Junkshop series.
Junkshop Series, 2008–2009
In this series, photographs of the interior of a junkshop are used as source material, building compositions by overlaying, grounding, and piling the images. The videos play backwards, like an archeological dig. Scharbach commented on this series, "The abundance of these objects tells a story of our collective lives while also becoming a background for my personal narrative of losing someone I loved."
Human Nature, 2011
This is the most recent of the work presented, a single video that takes an autobiographical look at nature, humankind, and Scharbach's feelings about his relationship to the world. He used personal photos, sketches, found objects, and books in the video but said that "intuition plays a role in the formation of narrative." - Bradley Rubenstein
The Microscope Gallery is at 4 Charles Place in Brooklyn, New York.
Mr. Rubenstein is a painter, story teller, and smart culture aficionado.