The best works here are those that are compositionally epic—like The Wanderer (2018), which shows a deviant man-child in a loincloth, with what appears to be a pedometer strapped to his ankle. A fleet of alarmed crabs, their pincers raised in protest, scurry about his feet as he forges a path through a dark landscape. Perhaps the strongest work here, though, is The Visible World (2018), in which a naked woman is stretched over what’s either a severed tree trunk or a rock stranded at sea. She reaches one hand down into the water, and the other up toward the apocalyptic clouds overhead. An ominous stork has landed by her side carrying not a baby, but seemingly a bundle of human eggs. The figure appears to be Schutz herself, unmoored and alone, searching for some stable ground. There is something of a survival narrative here, as with most of the paintings in this exhibition: individuals struggling not only with themselves and one another, but also with an environment that is increasingly hostile to human life.
Ecological catastrophe may pervade Schutz’s imagery, but these are also psychic spaces, manifestations of the artist reaching out to touch what is materially and emotionally available to her. Schutz excels when she’s aware of those limits, less so when she wavers from that inherently unstable terrain. Within this show, she largely keeps to that very personal ground—and throws in references to the act of painting as a kind of emotional survival. “For me at least, that feels like the only way to get through something,” she told the New York Times
. We see evidence of this spirit of perseverance often in the new work. Despite the feverish throngs of Mountain Group
, a girl at the bottom focuses on painting a landscape. In Painting in an Earthquake
, a woman with her back turned to us is engaged in a multi-limbed attempt to create imagery while the entire room crumbles around her.
Even the exhibition’s title, “Imagine Me and You,” nods to the aspirational and fraught exercise of understanding one another. It also acknowledges, perhaps, that those attempts can fail—sometimes spectacularly—but that the rocky journey is worth the effort.