Nora Burnett Abrams
Mar 28, 2013 5:59PM

Ear on Fire is a bold and vibrant monotype. The work is inspired by the visual trope in which a light bulb going off near someone's head signals the conception of a new, breakthrough idea. Instead, Schutz translates that cliche into something more menacing: rather than a light bulb, there is an explosive fire burning the figure's ear. It seems that the figure is unaware; he is still pondering. Was his idea so brilliant that it forced the bulb to burst? Was it so powerful that it exceeded the limits of the glass?  

A series of oppositions infuses the work with tension and intensity. The smooth surface of the monotype contrasts with the nubby texture of the figure’s sweater. The tactility of this fabric tantalizes with its thick softness. The colors bounce off one another, vividly setting each other off. What further enlivens this work is the way we can imagine or envision how the flames will expand beyond the frame, and what they will consume while doing so.

After creating the monotype, Schutz added to it with colored pencil and pastel. The fluidity of gesture that dances across the surface, extending the reach of the flames and the billowing smoke, alludes to the fact that the work in many ways seems to be about gesture itself or, really, art-making. The work suggests a metaphor for the challenges of the creative act. A brilliant idea to be explored, the artist completely absorbed by it to the point where it literally begins to consume her—a struggle to migrate an idea into some other, material form—this seems to be the subject of Ear on Fire

(Ear on Fire was included in a recent exhibition of Dana Schutz's work at MCA Denver.)

Nora Burnett Abrams
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