Love Letter to Alex Schaefer

A painting of a Chase bank on fire, the storefront pristine and seemingly untouched with flames roaring out from the roof with gushes smoke just behind it.
Alex Schaefer, Chase Burning, 2011. Painting. 28 x 22 inches. Courtesy of Alex Schaefer.

Over the past year, I have felt increasingly nostalgic for the times I was able to aimlessly browse museums and galleries for hours. I grew up in Las Vegas, so I didn’t experience large halls filled with art until I moved. Because of the pandemic, I turned to internet browsing and discovered brilliant creators in the process.

Los Angeles-based artist Alex Schaefer encapsulates the multiple sides to society in his work — beautiful views and uncontrollable capitalism. As a painter, he portrays an anger toward corporate entities. Yet his portfolio has the range to highlight the city’s beautiful sides, from Echo Park to different skyline views. These are places I have never visited in Los Angeles, but someday hope to.

Schaefer’s standout piece, Chase Burning (2011), is one of many in his series of prominent banks on fire. I enjoy his cheeky daring  side as an artist—Schaefer made the painting en plein air in front of an actual Chase bank, alarming both the LAPD and the Chase company spokesperson. His series of burning buildings showcases Schaefer’s flexibility, painting both scenes of everyday life and commentary on consumerism. 

In a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Schaefer described Chase Burning as a “visual metaphor for the havoc that banking practices have caused to the economy.” A decade later, this piece still rings true to me.