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Coast to Coast With Dana Schutz
December 2, 2005


Dana Schutz, Twin Parts, 2004, Zach Feuer Gallery

Economist Tyler Cowen mentioned that he's still thinking about Dana Schutz's paintings after a recent tour through MoMA. There's been no lack of attention for Schutz since 2003, when her works were featured in both the Venice and Prague biennales—just one year after her graduation from Columbia's MFA program. From 2003 to 2004, sales figures for her paintings rocketed roughly from four to six digits, which speaks to her presence in the New York art world—as does her recent entrance into the MoMA contemporary collection. These facts, of course, can cloud the way that we think about an artist; discussions about Dana Schutz are centered around her rising star as often as around her art.

Cowen's post made me think back to this post from Edward Winkleman's archives, a post that led to a lively discussion about Schutz's work. One commenter in that thread cleverly describes Schutz as "Ensor on vacation in Tahiti with Gauguin." Tyler Green chimes in with a claim he's long maintained: that (despite the artist's East Coast residency) her style is deeply indebted—too deeply indebted—to Bay area figurative giants David Park and Elmer Bischoff.

Ask about her work and people will tell you either that she's a phenomenal painter or more phenomenon than painter. The divide only grows sharper as her prominence rises. I think the question in part turns on the flatness of her images. Occassionally the seams in Schutz's mise en scène are too apparent, fraying into a few distinguishable layers of brushstroke. But more often than not she succeeds, her marks operating freely and aggressively but still convincingly within one plane. Depth in these works is the product of Schutz's deft use of color.

The artist's humor is often noted: Her tropical cannibals, choppy surgeons, paranoid patients, and self-devouring figures neatly anticipate the process by which viewers and critics scan her works and disassemble them into component influences. Those influences are there, from the overarching presence of Gaugin in Schutz's palette to the art-historical hat-tips in her compositions. (Winkleman notes references to Ensor and Rembrandt in Schutz's Presentation, to list one example.)

Wit isn't the only narrative handhold to Schutz's work. The character in Twin Parts, pictured in the process of building itself from spare body parts (or taking itself apart) seems engaged in a painterly process—building an image to portray the self. That construction metaphor also hints at the way we interact with one another and the commercial world, a theme put forward in Surgery and her paintings of "self-eaters." While I don't think it's necessarily a central element to her work, there is a current of feminist criticism in Schutz's treatment of our bodies and ourselves.

Remarkably, Schutz is still under 30. (It's almost understandable that some people spite her for her success.) Those who aren't fans may find that she'll surprise them down the road, of course, but either way, they ought to get comfortable with seeing her work around.

Posted by Kriston on December 2, 2005 in American Art Elsewhere


I'll have to look into her work more. It seems very interesting, and different from what I'm used to seeing.

The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University will be having a solo exhibition of her work in the coming year, January 19 - April 9, 2006. Very much looking forward to seeing her paintings in person after reading so much about them over the past year or so.

I can't help seeing a theater piece when I look at Schutz's paintings. A proscenium envelope around an unfolding drama (as opposed to a fleeting moment) seems more in line with Greuze than with Rembrandt, despite the thick paint. Her brushes might be wider, but John Currin is lurking somewhere in the bushes nearby.

Schutz is also deeply indebted to Judith Linhares, a painter born in 1940, who for some reason has not sky-rocketed to fame and fortune. Her work can be viewed at the Edward Thorp Gallery Web site.

Some of Schutz's paintings look like copies of Judith's. Check it out before you proclaim Schutz a genius.

David, I see a similarity, but I don't know that it's obvious that Schutz owes a debt to Judith Linhares; their work is very contemporary vis-a-vis one another, and Schutz's first solo show featuring works in this style happened in 2002. It's probably reasonable to say that the artists share influences.

Schutz's works seem somehow more... alive than Linhares'. Or maybe I'm just a fan of the humor in them. In any case, you can see a good showcase of Dana Schutz's work with a bio and commentary on the Saatchi Gallery's website. :-)

You might want to check out Judith Linhares' Web site. Look in the archives of her work from 20 or so years ago. You may rethink the notion that these two painters are really contemporaries.

While I agree these two very good painters may share influences, I find the disparity in public recognition disturbing to say the least. The few paintings on the Thorp Web site don't really show the extent of Linhares vision and accomplishment. Her show at Thorp Gallery opens in mid March, I hope you will check it out.

if you wanna go even further into similar painters, check out Peter Angermann's catalogue.

Dana Schutz paintings are the greatest thing since Basquiat.They fascinate me in every sense. I first read about her in a Vogue article and I have been looking up her work ever since. She is a genius painter regardless of how you try to compare her work to other artists. She is beyond that. Dana I hope I can one day go to the opening of one of your next exhibition and meet you.

I work at SHS in Michigan and remember her being in art classes and how proud they are of her. Her dad worked there too and is very proud of her accomplishments!!

Dana's paintings have always been visually amazing. I believe I would have missed something valuable if I hadn't of seen her work or ever met her.

A recent painting by Schutz, Google, 2005, is currently hung at the end of the American Identities galleries at the Brooklyn Museum. The painting style doesn't seem to match the style of images I have been looking at on various web sites. I would be interested in any comments.

The painting is a self-portrait in a somewhat twisted perspective with very broad and expressive brush strokes.

Dana Schutz is somewhat of an enigma to me. The reason I'm even looking at her work and discussing it in any way, is that I was amazed at her rapid rise to stardom. Despite her prolific brush strokes and color, I can't help to think of the bevy of other artists whose artistic prowess is undeniable yet they have achieved no semblance of the same success that Dana has. Indeed, what's more disturbing is that someone chose to compare her in any way, shape, or form, to Rembrandt. Who are we trying to kid?

If she submitted some of her work to local juried shows, either she would not get accepted or the work would be indistinguishable or not as astonishing as other less known artists. She appears to be a byproduct of being in the right place at the right time and good old fashion marketing.

Although I have not yet received a response to my comment regarding my impressions of artwork by Dana Schutz, I have continued to give her paintings considerable thought. Indeed, despite my initial assessment of her of her style and compositons, I have found them to be rich in color,values, and overall ingenuity.

The turning point for me was a comment she had made in one of her interviews. She stated that she was initially afraid to use saturated color in her work. Instead, she felt more comfortable incorporating more subdued hues. I, too, have felt the same way about my paintings. Moreover, I have begun to integrate this new color scheme into my recent work and have found the results to be very visually pleasing to both myself and to my biggest critic, my wife Orna. Furthermore, my interest in Dana Schutz goes beyond her artwork. She graduated from my Alma Mater, Columbia College in 2002. I graduated from Columbia College in 1978 and susequently in 1982 from The Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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