Judith Schwarz

York University

The strength of Judith Schwarz’s work depends upon her dexterous handling of material and a growing vocabulary of forms. Schwarz has an affinity for steel and wood, and the majority of the wall pieces exhibited here incorporate both materials in seemingly effortless union.

The earliest sculpture in the exhibition is a three-part work entitled Parallel Language, 1987, which juxtaposes a circular die-cut steel sheet mounted on the wall, a minimalist steel beam that angles out from it and onto the floor, and a steel stencil of a leaf shape leaning against the wall beside a magnificent slice of oak. The three parts provide the visual basis for later works, suggesting a polarity of symbols that oscillate between microcosm and macrocosm.

From this point on, Schwarz began isolating the elements in individual works, and it is in these later discrete sculptures that her work has come into its own. Images that resemble wreaths, trees, and galaxies suggest that Schwarz has refined her intentions. While the oak slab in Parallel Language was seductively polished, the cut wood she employs in the newer works is finished with the precision of a luxury object. Schwarz’s use of wood has little to do with any intention to reference nature or to investigate the relationship of nature and culture. Instead,it is the coupling of seemingly incongruous materials into a weightless union that defines the work. In Geometry, 1989, steel is deftly twisted around wood to form a wreath, and in a separate piece a whirling galaxy floats on an ellipse of wood.

All of this stated, this work stands in uncomfortable proximity to design. Though Schwarz seems to test this fine line quite deliberately, her works remain resolutely artistic. Their hybrid formations, systematized use of geometry, and slightly larger-than-life scale remain unsettling.

Linda Genereux