Adrian Schachter, If fish could swim
Gratin, New York
By CLARE GEMIMA April, 2023
I dare all of the people who attended Gratin’s opening tonight to go back and truly look at these incredibly rich works when the gallery is less packed throughout the run of Adrian Schachter’s If fish could swim. I am so looking forward to this experience myself.
It’s the artist’s first time showing in New York. I understand it is exciting, but the lights shining on the grand paintings make it harder to see how intricately Schachter paints character’s bodies and faces. I imagined him drowning at some point, or putting his head under water and opening his eyes intensely before coming up for air as inspiration for these works. I had this thought before considering the two largest paintings in the space could’ve at one point been connected to each other - not only in a physical sense, but in narrative, and compositional form too. They both suddenly, and connectedly expanded into a larger scene. Could it be that Schachter had painted a huge canvas before choosing to slice the painting in half to make two?
The work’s globs of paint line the edges of his canvases, making me wonder how heavy they are. His use of gel medium makes the work look almost like fabric, a sarong-light type, but it’s an illusion the artist knows exactly how to portray with his wet medium mixes. These paintings deserve more room and space, and their spotlighting needn't be so invasive, although sometimes it highlights the glooping and build up of paint in certain areas that could otherwise be harder to notice.
The painting on the left as you walk in feels eerily religious, and could’ve been painted from a voyeuristic point of view. It feels like Schachter paints looking over, and into what he desires for his characters to see. The similarly scaled painting on the right wall is more generous with facial expressions, and allows viewers to observe the same potential landscape merely from elsewhere, but maybe from not too far away.
Go back and look at how layered these works are. I assure anyone that there’s no way to understand how arduous these works must have been for the artist to create. Unless it is all trickery. I can assume there is also a much more intricate concept that underpins how Schachter cultivates his imagery that I am not yet privy to, but art history plays a role, we can see this clearly. Whether prompted with hints of Dürer, Moses’ trek, or Soviet Russia with AI interpolations, it doesn’t stand in the way of Schachter embalming his canvases in paint, and creating compositions that stand beautifully, and analog.
These paintings are timestamps, and they are pretty damn magnificent.
Allegorical themes, one could guess lightly, are of large interest to the painter. Maybe this is all just a secret he keeps to himself. Who cares? Well, we should, simply because these paintings are way more than just beautiful. I wonder if anyone from his audience knows how he initially composes what they are looking at, or how disturbing his mind could really be. The painter could not stop being cuddled by gorgeous friends, after all. WM
Clare Gemima contributes art criticism to The Brooklyn Rail, Contemporary HUM, and other international art journals with a particular focus on immigrant painters and sculptors who have moved their practice to New York. She is currently a visual artist mentee in the New York Foundation of Art’s 2023 Immigrant mentorship program.view all articles from this author