Dana Schutz

This exhibition of paintings by New York artist Dana Schutz at Johnson County Community College Gallery of Art is her first one-person institutional show. 

Schutz’s work is full of kinetic brush strokes that lead to drips and blobs of debris falling off of or out of the composite figures.  She curls dabs of oil outwards over broad gestural strokes, or slathers thick wet-on-wet colors beside a wash, obsessing in places and improvising in others. 

There is no stillness to Schutz’s pictures: Paint and gestures are always moving, and the surfaces vibrate.  Some canvases are big and ecstatic, like Lovers, 2003, which was shown in the Venice Biennale last summer.  

Schutz’s subject matter moves from the imagined real into delusory riffs of constructed reality, all of which she paints “from observation”.  She makes sketches or draws the people around her just to get information, but prefers the premise of painting imaginary things “from life” or from some sort of proposed reality.  The belief in a fictional situation gives Schutz some sort of concrete information as a starting point for a painting. 

Schutz takes on the themes of consumption, cannibalism, and eventual renewal.  In Feelings, 2003, a girl greedily brings a whopping portion of squishy paint up to her wide-open mouth.  Squeezed directly from the tube, the paint was built up on the canvas with an extravagance not at all unusual for this artist.  Their built-up surfaces often approach sculptural dimensions, and indeed, Schutz describes painting as a form of building. 

Another group of works explores construction via destruction by way of self-love so intense that the lovers cannot help but consume their own flesh.  “I’ve been making things a bit darker lately,” Schutz explained of “Self Eaters and the People Who Love Them,” her exhibition at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris this winter.  Although the artist sometimes tries to veil the harsher side of her sensibility beneath a rainbow of hues, her unruliness can still show through.  The cannibalism of the self-eaters is a metaphor for creation through destruction and regeneration.  

Dana Schutz was born in Michigan in 1976.  She received a Masters of Fine Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Cleveland Institute of Art in 2000.  Her work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2003, Prague Biennial 2003, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, Metro Pictures Gallery, New York, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, LFL Gallery, New York, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Oregon, and PS1/MoMA, New York.

Dana Schutz was interviewed by Maurizio Cattelan for the accompanying catalogue.