Someone asked me recently how long I had known Jay Jacobs, and I must admit, I’m still stumped.
I know I first wrote about him more than 12 years ago and feel certain I had been aware of the man and his work for a few years prior. But the truth is Jacobs is one of those rare figures who seems to have always been part of the community fabric and creative conversation. Most who feel familiar with the man and his work may recall another model of Jay Jacobs.
They may remember him as the automatic artist that filled canvases, boards or any other available surface with a riot of faces seeming drawn from thin air. They may recall one of his many appearances as a founding member of the annual al fresco painting program Artzilla. Perhaps they have seem his art – often expansive – hanging on the walls of local collectors or businesses. Perhaps they have met the man, gifted with a personality equally expansive, on a downtown street or cultural event. But what people may have missed is an evolution that has happened quietly and will, I feel, forever change the perception of Jacobs as both an member of the community and as a painter.
Jacobs has become, in every sense of the word, a fine artist.
While many of the hallmarks that initially attracted me to Jacobs work those many years ago remain, his conceptual approach, his craftsman-like approach to process and unbuoyed intellect has allowed him to develop into that rarest of artists – one that is both beloved and important.
What’s remarkable about Jacobs’s work is its ability to work in a number of different ways. On the surface, his surrealistic imagery appears beautiful, sometimes whimsical and is presented with a slightly surrealistic edge. Closer examination however, reveals much more.
You see, there’s not an image or idea included in a Jacobs painting without significance or import. There are no random events. There are no nods toward empty aesthetics. A Jacobs painting, or more significant series, is a chapter in the artist’s autobiography, a statement of who is in that moment and, more significantly, the often-abstract ideas that keep him occupied. His works are complicated tales and fables, fever dream road trips through the artist’s psyche that, with patience, reveal real truths.
The result is an artist that can no longer be considered emerging, but fully emerged. He is a Bowie-esque explorer who, within the parameters of his style and chosen medium, has found peace in change and specificity in the understanding that he is allowed and encouraged to serve the stories he currently tell with great success.
Symbols &Allegories: Works by Jay Jacobs is on display through Sept. 20 at the Westobou Gallery, 1129 Broad St.