Work of the Week — “The Corruption of Ecstasy” by Robert Yarber

Monday, July 17, 2017

by Haley Clement

This week’s featured piece is Robert Yarber’s 1989 color lithograph The Corruption of Ecstasy. What struck me most about this work was all of the chaos – both in color and in content. The bloody red of the sky and water combined with the glowing blue of the figures add turmoil to the already tumultuous scene, in which a man is shown falling from a building. The body itself brings up several questions: Was he murdered? Who did it? Was this suicide? Once you shift focus from that figure, however, you begin to ask even more questions: Is the woman aware of the body? Does she not care? Is the man in the foreground crying because of the body or the woman? Do the subjects know each other? I could go on and on…2008.40.61-397x267

To me, the fact that there are so many unanswered questions makes this work all the more interesting. In a way, everyone who looks at it can see something else and imagine a different storyline. The title gives some indication of what the piece is about, but that is it. With the title, we, as the viewer, know this is a comment on the negative side effects of ecstasy, but the ecstasy in this piece could relate to a plethora of things. Over-indulgence is my guess. What do you think?

The artist, Robert Yarber, was born in Dallas, TX, and is currently the Distinguished Professor of Art at Pennsylvania State University. In 1971, he received a BFA from Cooper Union in New York and earned an MFA two years later from Louisiana State University. Interesting fact: The “very hallucinatory” neon color palette Yarber utilized in this piece and many of his others inspired Nicola Pecorini, the cinematographer for “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, during the production of the film.

While we only have one piece by Yarber in our Collection, I advise you to check out some of his other works online!

Artwork above: Robert Yarber, The Corruption of Ecstasy1989, color lithograph, 30.00 x 44 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by Ray Griffin and Thom Robinson. 2008.40.61.