Dinosaurs Have Next in the Art of San Francisco Painter Michael Kerbow
San Francisco painter Michael Kerbow wants to make art that matters. Indeed, the artist says that it is quite easy to make art to decorate someone’s wall, but it can also explore important issues and communicate critical ideas.
âI am making art on environmental challenges like climate change, plastic pollution and habitat destruction because I am very concerned about how we are transforming the earth,â he told 48hills . Because he believes that we are not only jeopardizing the health of the planet but our very future on it, his paintings aim to distill what he sees happening today and what may await us tomorrow.
Kerbow grew up in the eastern half of the United States and arrived in San Francisco in 1993, when he was hired to be the lead artist for a digital retouching store for advertising agencies and commercial photographers. As a painter, his work is serious, ironic and imaginative, even as it tackles pressing problems. The juxtaposition of images quickly and curiously attracts the viewer’s attention. What are we looking at exactly? They’re dinosaursâ¦ but is it a Walmart? A wise observer will understand this; It’s our future, not our past – and our potential extinction is a troubling issue that deserves serious consideration.
In fact, Kerbow’s âHighwaterâ painting has gained a lot of attention lately. After posting an image of the painting on his Instagram page, he noticed a surge of interest and engagement. Within days, there has been a huge wave of comments from two groups of people discussing the issue of climate change – those who tout the science and those who say it’s not real. At the time of this writing, the post has over half a million likes and climbs – including one from actor John Leguizamo – and nearly 4,000 comments, which is manner more than the measurements Kerbow says he normally sees. (For perspective, the artist’s posts typically get 100-300 likes and 2-20 comments.) The numbers make it clear that this is a topic on people’s minds – and that paintings by Kerbow spark a heated debate.
For the past decade, Kerbow has had an art studio at 1890 Bryant Street, a large industrial building in the Inner Mission. The structure was once a Best Foods mayonnaise factory, but now contains creative studios for more than 100 artists and artisans. A large workspace with high ceilings and lots of natural light allows Kerbow to work on several large-scale paintings at once. He jumps from room to room, depending on what requires his attention on any given day. With an iPod full of music or an audiobook queued up, Kerbow gets down to it, sketching out ideas for new pieces, then working mostly with oil on canvas and sometimes acrylic, telling the stories. stories that he considers necessary and salient.
His fictional landscapes are allegories of industrialized society; sprawling cities to illustrate our growing presence in the natural world, cars and highways indicating our fossil fuel economy. A recurring theme is the thickets of billboards displaying the word “PLUS” which signifies our consumer ethics. âThis word is repeated in my work, like a mantra for capitalism; the driving force behind everything we do as a company, âsaid Kerbow.
While the artist says 2020 has been a terrible year, it hasn’t significantly hampered his creativity. If anything, it probably made him more prolific.
âThe lockdown basically forced me to stay in my studio and paint all the time,â Kerbow said. “I am grateful to have had this opportunity during this time as it has kept me sane.” This year he worked on a series of paintings titled “Late Capitalism” which depict the resurrection of dinosaurs, with scenes of giant reptiles invading our world.
The new series is a critique of our economy, of hyperconsumption, and examines the resulting ecological toll on the planet.
“We thoughtlessly released these creatures from the ground in the form of fossil fuels, so the dinosaurs represent the destructive violence of climate change and the specter of extinction,” the painter explained. Regarding counseling in light of the precarious world we live in, Kerbow urges, âDon’t put off chasing what you really want in this life. Your time in this world is short, so spend it wisely.
See the work of Michael Kerbow in the Ruth’s table virtual group exhibition “Climate change: the time bomb” until October 15th. âRequiemâ, his solo exhibition of fanciful and dystopian paintings examining the society runs until October 30 at the UMA Gallery, 3630 Telegraph, Oakl. Kerbow is hosting an SF Open Studios event in his studio in 1890 Bryant on Saturday / 2 and Sunday / 3. To see her work, visit her website and Instagram page.