Rachel Fischer’s Bad Omens at Clamp Light Studios and Gallery

Before we even enter the exhibition, you are greeted by or collide with a glassy eyed mass of black hair. This somber black figure is the only sentient being in an exhibition focused on totemic objects. They serve as a sort of protagonist amidst the room of carefully curated, fastidiously painted Omens.

As we make our way into the space we find paintings of richly modulated fingertips, ding dong swirls, grinning geodes, auras of color, all arranged around a ring of bricks painted with a plaintiff S.O.S.. The placement of each painting creates alliances between the individual works.

Fischer’s paintings all are in small conversations with each other throughout the gallery. A dusky little aura uses the language of Color Field painting à la Kenneth Noland specifically, to add to a sort of hippie, spiritual glow to the flesh of a monumental pruney finger.

Fischer has a penchant to objectify her subjects in a style reminiscent of Düsseldorf School of photography, the objects are straight on, perfectly centered. However, her work resists the deadpan realism with the colors and attitude of a 90s teen, poppy, sarcastic, and acidic.

We don’t look into Fischer’s work but rather at it. The paintings aren’t window we look through but objects we look at. The thick chunky canvases stick off the wall asserting their “objectness” toward us, breaking down any expectation of an illusionistic window into a world. And they prioritize the details over the whole. The images are maps of tiny cracks, wrinkles, and curls.

A notable example of Fischer’s technique is a medium sized painting of rock, with a gestural smile painted across the surface, and backgrounded with bands of color. The rock itself is a blue green with a grey exterior shell. Fischer carefully maps the white veins that run over the surface. She applies the same finicky attention the smile that was painted on the surface of the rock. The painting is reminiscent of David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, and is similarly a deliberate painting of a type of gestural expressionism. Here the emotion is carefully preformed not spontaneously felt.

The one sculptural object in the show is a tentative step in the direction of non-representative space. Bricks, spray painted with the letters SOS build a sort of fort like structure in the room that grounds the show. But in a show about objects, and their sort of hollow importance in our lives, this short stack of bricks feels a bit unfinished. They lack the emotional uncertainty and sophistication Fischer’s other objects possess.

All of Rachel Fischer’s work engages with the creation of meaning. As humans, we take in the world around is, its chaos and coincidence and we process it. We make order from the disorder, sense out of the nonsensical, and then we often use objects as small vessels that hold our emotions. The cross, the wedding ring, a lock of baby hair, all hold or reflected our inherent subjectivity.

This brings me back to our teary eyed guide. Are they in on the joke or are these the objects they cling to after the tears? Might we meant to read the shiny black curls and bloodshot eyes as a tragic portrait of Fisher herself?

A strange bunny that exists as a fleshy rock, wade of gum or a vestigial twin from the dog’s own body. The sparkling, precisely rendered ding dong swirls that reflect the dog’s tight curls. The smiling face painted on the geode seems to give us a clue into the into Fischer’s thoughts on meaning making. It’s silly, goofy, and beautiful. It’s a meticulously painted gesture of a smile on a rock, and it teases us a bit about the sincerity and importance we place on certain objects and the roles they play in our life. But its tone is buoyant. It seems to crack up with us and offer a hug, it’s all meaningless but at least we are in it together.