In From The Dark Sea, Elizabeth Schwaiger utilizes the architecture of Jane Lombard Gallery’s new Tribeca location, taking full advantage of both floors to offer a spatially cogent exploration of external influence and internal psychology, of how we exist within a galaxy of competing demands and hushed anxieties that reach out to us from past and future to make our already precarious present all the more so. Schwaiger allows us to sit comfortably with that time slippage, to come face to face with concerns we might rather keep in the basement, as it were. To that end, the structure of the exhibition subtly pulls the viewer through the works and into the half-light of the lower floor of the gallery where the harmonies of the show slide into a minor key. In that underworld, Schwaiger’s paintings and sculpture become more complex and mysterious. The balance of the benign, and the malign tip as clearly recognizable imagery shifts to the uncanny, and gestural mark embraces the dynamic over the safety of balance.
Through the exhibition’s gamut of tone and complexity, images of high stakes political summits, of quiet interiors, of disaster, of luxury, of half-remembered parties, and ethereal overgrowth, of de-peopled museums and vacant artist studios, come together to give shape to the vivid internal dynamism of life in the shadow of forces seemingly beyond any of our individual influences. It serves as an invitation to look closely at what we intrinsically turn away from and find there not the unintelligible monsters of our fears, but something parsable and at times even exquisite. In the inevitable re-emergence of the viewer from the shadow regions of the gallery, and in the recrossing of the brighter side of the exhibition, what was half-hidden in the topside artworks is revealed. The avoidant lens shatters as once unseen power-differentials are glimpsed behind even the most serene foreground. The clear-eyed gift of katabasis is the understanding that these two views — finding the beauty of the moment and conversely taking in the whole of the dark reality for all its worth — are not incompatible but inseparable, that each is key to the other, that it is worth every effort to break the golden bough.