The behavior being described here is most likely an OpenGL issue. As Grgschmtz points out, the volumeViewer heavily uses hardware OpenGL for doing the rendering. On certain graphics hardware, particularly Intel Integrated Graphics, there can be insufficient OpenGL support, so you may see strange artifacts or all black rendering. As a diagnostic, try:
If this resolves the issue, then you are definitely experiencing an OpenGL rendering issue related to the app. Because using the preference above results in slowering rendering and disables certain features of the app, the best thing is to attempt to update the drivers for your graphics hardware to see if that resolves the issue. To do this, execute:
To get information about the vendor of your graphics hardware. Go to their website and follow directions for updating drivers. Restart MATLAB. Now try the volumeViewer again to see if rendering is improved. If it is not, then the best course is to leave the preference for 'VolumeViewerUseHardware' set to false.