Chad Gerth

Artist Statement

Windshields, 2003-4


A windshield is a transparent, defensive barrier between the occupants of a car and the outside world. Aside from its protective qualities, it warrants little philosophical thought. However, a secret life – one of incredible visual potential hides within this mundane object. Not until the moment of impact or when unbearable stress is applied to the windshield does it demonstrate its ability to spontaneously generate remarkable, irrational patterns. In so many ways this moment of often violent interruption is an encounter with the Real. Given extraordinary stress and possessing inadequate flexibility, the lowly windshield, like a flower, blossoms forth an intricate recounting of its brief troubles.


Guided by no hand, the lines of a cracked windshield follow their own logic and are directed by an unknowable intelligence. These images retell a brief narrative written in glass. No longer a window and never a mirror, they represent the kind of memory that never fades. They represent frozen trauma as it inscribes itself on the windshield, by some supernatural collaboration between glass and physics. The images are created by direct contact between the windshield and photographic paper, and are written in hard light. They are photograms; as persistent as a charcoal rubbing, and as undeniable as an X-ray. They not only bring us closer to the story of the windshield, but also offer us a peek into the beautiful language of everyday objects in extraordinary situations.


The windshields were collected from various auto-glass shops in the Chicago area. By imaging directly from the actual windshields with visible light, these prints present a life-sized record of the cracks that appear throughout the glass. Irrational lines meander across the field as evidence of trauma, rendering a normally transparent protective barrier visible. The details of the prints are the result of the characteristic outline of the windshields, the scars of history, and functional markings such as permit stickers and sunshades.


These images are created by the passage of light through glass directly onto photographic paper resulting in an opaque surface. They transform the windshield into something that is neither a window nor a mirror. 


Chad Gerth is interested in the intersection of technology, commerce, and contemporary culture. His work comprises time-lapse images of LP records playing, flattened candy wrappers, and the architecture of urban driving ranges in Japan. He works in series, often treating his subjects as biological specimens or scientific studies. Since his emergence in the late 1990s, Gerth has developed his own unique style of photography including the use of photograms; passing light through broken glass and ice directly onto orthographic film to create enigmatic x-ray like images. 

Gerth has written about his work: "Photographs are two-dimensional by nature, so the extra-dimensional information on the surface must be deciphered by some other process, most often memory. Object and event become process; process becomes surface; the surface holds information which can be revealed but not decoded." Gerth was born in 1975 and received his BFA from Ryerson University and his MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago.