-ART ARTICLE: Judith Schaechter at Claire Oliver

Article written for "M" aka "The New York Art World" and it appeared in their September 2010 issue (the one with Artist Crocheted Olek on the cover).

The printed article was of course quite edited-down.
This is the full text before editing.

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Notable Shows :

Judith Schaechter,
Claire Oliver Gallery, “Beauty and the Beef”.
513 West 26th St, New York, NY 10001
(Nearest subway: 23rd St Station via C or E trains.)
May 21st-June 26th , 2010


http://www.ClaireOliver.com
http://www.JudithSchaechter.com

In a city packed with so many galleries and artists, there must (just by virtue of averages) be a lot of bad art out there. It is easy to get jaded ---to decide that indeed the majority is twaddle--- when surrounded by so much lame paint-throwing, weak scatter-art, derivative wastes of wallspace, slick commercial pieces, and by creations whose inclusion in gallery exhibits could only possibly be explained by some sort of intimate contact with key staff. Before one’s gallery-melancholy goes terminal, one must seek a potent cure: the artwork of Judith Schaechter ---which can restore one’s faith in the Art World.

Artist Judith Schaechter’s creations can have “wonder drug” effects on the most burnt-out art-cynic. The pleasure one felt when first getting interested in art comes flooding back ---whether this high was first inspired by youthful museum viewing of: abstract lines, Renaissance painters’ realism, Japanese metalcrafters’ micro-sculpted sword hilt decorations, luminous Tiffany window iris and forsythia scenes, and/or fleshy weird-naturalism of Lucian Freud’s sort. All of it and more swirls through Schaechter’s works. One might enjoy the clean geometry, appreciate the hand-skill (so uncommon in most current gallery art), and fancy the precise fabrication. One might titter with giddy delight, or be captivated by fine linework smaller than a nickel, or be somewhat creeped-out by the maudlin subjects, or just mentally-respond: “all of the above.”

Schaechter works in flat stained glass mounted in brushed-metal self-contained frame-lightbox units. The latter lend an air of sculptural monumentality while also exuding the timelessness that only the best of Minimalism achieves. They would look “contemporary” in any year after about 1930 ---never seeming “dated” whether its 1960, 2010, or 2080. The pictures resemble paintings ---with the bonus of being backlit. Lead seams (inherent to the stained glass process) divide the pictures into abstract shapes; yet the painted, etched, ground, sandblasted, overall subject matter is realistic (with fantasy and pattern elements). To truly and successfully blend realism and abstraction within one artwork is challenging and exceptionally rare. (Gustav Klimt’s gold icon mosaic-women and, working today, Jazz-Minh Moore’s wood-panel windblown maidens come to mind.) Schaechter nails it.

In a style evocative of Raphael, Francesco Clemente, and Tim Burton ---somehow all happening at once--- Schaechter depicts clammy troubled lone people in eerie surreal situations: sprawled on the snowy ground before a security gate; crawling half-naked out of a rough-cobbled spiral path bordered with otherworldly blue flora; slumping (lobotomized/ drugged/ senile/ dreaming?) in a decrepit institutional cell; crooning skyward while wearing a tutu and striking a pose atop a pyramid of kaleidoscope-diatom medallions.

The medallions are a repeating element on the artist’s creations. The coin-sized to doorknob-sized eye-treats are so many colored dots at a distance, but they transform up close into snowflakes, cinquefoils, flowers ---and sometimes into perky cartoon protozoa which seem like miniature Kenny Scharf painting escapees. The minute details in the tiny jewels charm those who nose in for close-up viewing. Gallerist Claire Oliver confided that Schaechter’s position in college teaching faculty provides ample time to develop new medallion designs ---since the endless waves of staff meetings endemic to academia allow many moments for discreet sketching.

Those versed in stained glass history can enjoy Schaechter’s art on additional planes. Of course most of flat glass’ history involved unmodulated colors: many reds and blues of medieval windows were simply pure red or blue. Old windows’ supporting lead lines often cut across the designs arbitrarily. Much of the great Tiffany’s glory came from two innovations: 1) placing the lead along lines already present in the drawing (using tree trunks and branches as supports, etc), and 2) producing new types of glass allowing naturalistic modulated coloration (especially in skies, water, clouds, and flower petals). When one layer of glass didn’t yield exactly the right color gradients, Tiffany stacked additional layers on the back side ---sometimes an inch thick.

Schaechter goes further. The artist uses sandwich-glass (perhaps a red and clear layer bonded together, or a blue-on-clear) and then selectively sandblasts away parts of the colored layer to create subtle shading effects. She then stacks more than one such worked pane (each a different sandwich-glass color) atop each other just as a photomechanical offset printer would superimpose the cyan, yellow, and magenta layers on the way to a full-color image. Etching, grinding, and overpainting in oil finishes the area. Old Master painters built rich surfaces with depth by layering many thin coats of translucent paint. Schaechter’s layering makes the glass resemble oil painting ---suffused with soft electric glow. Her fleshtones and fabrics seem real (while also clearly being made of glass). Earth strewn with stones, walls with crackled paint, a bare chain-link fence, and other backgrounds seem photographic at times. Additional clear layers might be painted or etched with tree branches, foliage, stones, snowflakes, or fence patterns for even more depth ---almost in the manner of decoupage. It is possible to make a passable counterfeit Tiffany; no one could convincingly duplicate a Schaechter.

The purposefully distorted human proportions (oversized heads, somewhat warped noses and foreheads, etc) and other elements nudge the pictures into a fantasy world, but can also leave one wondering. Is this scene rolling through the mind of a senile or stroke-addled patient? Is this a forgotten dream? A “bad trip”? Is it a personification of someone’s id? The artist’s? My own?


---Terry Ward is an artist and occasional writer for “The New York Art World.”




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Judith Schaechter, Nature, 28”x 45”, Stained glass
Photo: Terry Ward


Judith Schaechter, Nature (Unlit view, showing abstract understructure), 28”x 45”, Stained glass
Photo: Terry Ward


Judith Schaechter, Nature, Detail, Stained glass
Photo: Terry Ward


Judith Schaechter, Nature, Detail, Stained glass
Photo: Terry Ward


Judith Schaechter, The Cold Genius, 25”x 35” (bottom) x 43” (top), Stained glass
Photo: Claire Oliver Gallery


Judith Schaechter, The Cold Genius, Detail
Photo: Claire Oliver Gallery


Judith Schaechter, Lockdown, 21”x 31”, Stained glass,
Photo: Terry Ward


Judith Schaechter, Lockdown, Detail, Stained glass
Photo: Claire Oliver Gallery


Judith Schaechter, Mad Meg, Detail, Stained glass
Photo: Claire Oliver Gallery


Judith Schaechter, Mad Meg, Detail, Stained glass
Photo: Terry Ward


Judith Schaechter, The Sin Eater, Detail, Stained glass.
Photo: Terry Ward



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