On July 26, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens Dana Schutz. One of the most accomplished painters of her generation, the New York–based Schutz (b. 1976, Livonia, Michigan) is known for her distinctive visual style characterized by vibrant color and tactile brushwork. Her large-scale paintings capture imaginary stories, hypothetical situations, and impossible physical feats, such as swimming while smoking and crying. Equal parts darkly humorous and uncanny, Schutz’s paintings combine abstraction and figuration with expressive imagination, truncated and re-constructed bodies, banal objects, and everyday scenes to create compelling and intriguing pictures.
Dana Schutz, a concise survey of the artist’s recent work, comprises 16 paintings, several at monumental scale, and five charcoal drawings, including two new ones. Schutz’s enormous new painting, Big Wave (2016), acquired by the ICA in December, is on view for the first time in the United States. Additionally, one new painting will premiere in this exhibition. Open through November 26, Dana Schutz is organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Jessica Hong, Curatorial Associate.
“Drawing on the legacies of both figurative and abstract painting, with nods to touchstone figures such as George Grosz and Max Beckmann, Schutz’s unique voice in painting exemplifies the expansive possibilities of the medium today,” said Respini.
Over the last decade, Schutz has honed her approach to painting, creating tightly structured scenarios and compressed interiors. Her works capture subjects who seem to be actively managing, even fighting, the limitations of their depicted environments—boundaries set by the canvases’ actual borders.
Schutz’s paintings often show hypothetical or impossible physical feats and explore the uncanny through wit and the expressive use of color. Her physically imposing canvases—some nearly 18 feet—are worlds onto themselves. Building the Boat While Sailing (2012) displays a mass of people, working, sailing, and lounging, all at once. Shaking out the Bed (2015) portrays a couple in bed seen from a birds-eye vantage point, a common gesture transformed by the artist into a tornado of energy that includes pizza slices, body parts, cups, and dirty laundry. In Big Wave (2016) two figures in the foreground play in the sand, seemingly oblivious to the ferocious incoming tidal wave that is swallowing up fish, a tangle of bodies, and assorted objects.
Dana Schutz also includes several paintings illustrating single figures involved in everyday scenarios such as showering or getting dressed. Works that have a more melancholy tenor include Piano in the Rain (2012) and Slow Motion Shower (2015), where each protagonist is encased within the work’s tight borders. Schutz’s vibrant color palette is widely expressive, encompassing violence, wit, melancholy, and absurdity. Teeming with energy, commotion, and struggle, her paintings capture a high level of tension and compression that is part of today’s zeitgeist.
Dana Schutz was born in Livonia, a suburb of Detroit, in 1976. The artist earned a B.F.A. at the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2000 and an M.F.A. at Columbia University, New York, in 2002. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Rose Museum, Brandeis University (2006); Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto (2010); Neuberger Museum of Art (2011); Miami Art Museum (2012); Denver Museum of Contemporary Art and Denver Art Museum (2012); Hannover Kesterngesellschaft and Hepworth Wakefield (2013); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2015/2016), her first solo exhibition at a Canadian institution; and a forthcoming exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art (2017). She is also featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial (March 11-June 17).
Support for Dana Schutz is generously provided by James and Audrey Foster, Barbara Lee, Ted Pappendick and Erica Gervais Pappendick, and David and Leslie Puth.