Judith Schaechter's Dark Matter is a show
of stained-glass light-boxes and sculpture at the
Claire Oliver Gallery in Chelsea at
513 West 26th Street, New York, presently
up and open until Saturday, October 25.
Most of the present show consists of a series
of stunning stained-glass windows shown through
lightboxes affixed to the walls. This is one of
the reasons one must see it in the flesh, or rather,
in the glass. Stained glass is a kind of sculpture
with light, and, as such, comes out of its framework
and interacts with the viewer as sculpture does
(or ought to) changing as the viewer looks at it in
different ways. Indeed, one might consider it to
be sculpture with light. So, instead of reading
this, you should go immediately to the Claire
Oliver Gallery, unless it is after October 25,
2014, in which case you will be out of luck for
the time being.
Fortunately, some very good, high-resolution photographs of the
works in the show have been made and can be found on
the web site of the Claire Oliver gallery beginning
so you can get an idea, if only a partial one,
of what is being shown.
Unlike the thematic Eastern State Penitentiary series,
these works proceed in a variety of directions.
For instance, one is the anthemic
(detail above) a transfigurational yet intimately moving descendent of
the Assumption pictures of the Renaissance, overlaid
with a neural network (which perhaps all new ghosts
pass through as they depart from the lower realms
and our thoughts about them), and hovering above a
distant worldly, indeed, global urban glow lit with
the dark fires of civilization. On the other hand,
down in those dark fires, there are the
in flight from an apocalyptic army of trucks and
ominous cloud-formations, a world all too real in
its frightening physical hostility.
Others works, less transcendental or apocalyptic,
comment in a complex way on character or mental state,
'Acedia' (listlessness) in which the
posture of the central figure is stretched out as
if crucified, apparently imprisoned while surrounded
by layers of intensely lively figures. Once again,
Schaechter is radically expanding the realm of
One image the photographers couldn't quite get as
it appears in real life is
'The Birth of Eve'.
What you can see on your computer is impressive
enough, but if you look closely you can notice curved
lines radiating from the body of Eve. In person,
these lines have a metallic sheen which makes them
more distinct and enables them to contribute to the
vertiginous position of the fetal yet full-grown and
complexly characterized upper subject, as she falls
dubiously into the created world below out of the
Indeed, all of these works need to be looked at
closely and carefully. Besides a central figurative
part, there are numerous forms, some abstract,
geometrical, some biotic, of dazzling variety, which
support, comment on, or adorn the central figure
and if they stood alone would be significant works
of art in themselves.
Besides the stained-glass lightboxes, the show also
has a number of small sculptures made of glass.
The glass is first cast in a mold, and then finished
by carving. Unlike the windows, the sculptures
are small and plain in color; however, they reflect
the concerns and moods of the stained-glass work.
I especially noticed two. One was a Minotaur who seems
to be undergoing crucifixion. Minotaurs are rather
involved mythopoetically, bringing together unnatural
lust, engineering, imprisonment, cannibalism, and
labyrinths -- exciting times in the ancient world
(and still significant in contemporary high, medium,
and low art, and other popular culture). Even Man
Ray's famous visual pun on the subject is disquieting
rather than humorous. The Minotaur did not have much
to be happy about in his prison-sepulchre. Maybe he,
too, once a sun god, died for our sins.
The other sculpture, found downstairs, is the bust
of a woman one of whose breasts has been removed.
(This is not apparent from the photographs.)
It is aptly called
'Bust', pushing the point home.
The subject is either the survivor of surgery, or an
Amazon, or both; she is peering upward attentively
as if from the bottom of a well, so the placement
of the sculpture at the foot of the stairs was quite
effective. The mood of the character, as I read it,
is stoical and resolute rather than angry or anxious.
Again, the show will be at the gallery until Saturday,
October 25th. Don't miss it.
Images by Judith Schaechter,
text by Gordon Fitch, 2014.