Even before she had reached the age of thirty, Dana Schutz was considered one of the leading artists of her generation. Her imaginative work, filled with inventive stories and hypothetical situations, is strange, humorous, whimsical, disturbing, and oddly compelling, all at the same time. Combining fantasy and reality, humor and horror, her vibrant paintings abound with expressionist energy.
From September 25 through December 18, 2011, the Neuberger Museum of Art
will present Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels, the first ten-year (2001-2011) survey of this extraordinary artists paintings and drawings. Featured are thirty paintings and twelve drawings, including work from each of her endlessly fascinating and innovative series -- from Frank from Observation (2002), portraying the fictional life of Frank, the last man on earth as depicted by Schutz, the worlds last painter, to recent works from the Tourettes and Verbs series including Swimming, Smoking, Crying, and Shaking, Cooking, Peeing (2009).
The exhibition is curated by Helaine Posner, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Neuberger Museum of Art. A fully illustrated catalogue copublished by the Neuberger Museum of Art and Prestel, with an essay by noted art
historian Cary Levine and an in-depth interview with Ms. Schutz accompanies the exhibition. Dana Schutz will travel to the Miami Art Museum and Denver Art Museum in 2012.
According to Cary Levine, ambivalence is central to the artists work. It is what makes her paintings not only strange and beautiful, disturbing and witty, but acutely relevant to our present moment and characteristic of her particular thirtysomething age group, he writes in his catalogue essay. Her loose gestural painting style amplifies the core ambiguities of her work, as brightly colored, thick, fleshy forms meld into one another, reality becomes unfixed, and the viewer is stuck between cheeriness and sickliness, innocence and cynicism.
The exhibition begins with Sneeze (2001), which depicts the unruly moment of the sneeze that got away, sending gobs of mucus airborne. Nearly all of Schutzs paintings engage bodily boundariesfluids flow forth, innards ooze out, the heavily impastoed flesh is always rendered malleableevoking not only rupture and decay, but fecundity, growth, and cyclicality. Schutz described the painting this way: A sneeze is something that you cant entirely capture in a photograph; its not visible; you cant paint it from observation, but everyone has experienced it. I was thinking then, How would you paint it? The eyes are squeezed shut, and I wanted the head to be really flat with this explosive eruption coming out of it. I wanted to paint what it feels like to sneeze.
In the Self-Eaters series (2004), in which the artists creatures are part human, part alien, and eat their own flesh, Schutz was considering issues of creation, destruction, and regeneration. What if people could digest themselves? Be whatever they could be? How would they come back to life? What if they had a hand in their own making? ... Perhaps they could sculpt new parts of themselves; they could be in a constant state of becoming, she once explained to a college audience.
In many of her recent works, the artists protagonists often appear powerless over themselves and their destinies. Verbs, a 2009 series, focuses on individuals trapped in an angst-ridden present of conflicting tensions and desires. These people not only engage in everyday pursuits, but do several incompatible activities at once, writes Levine. Hence, we view a woman performing three incongruous acts simultaneously such as in Shaking, Cooking, Peeing, in which a disheveled woman, standing in a kitchen, grabs a knife as she unsuccessfully attempts to steady a cup of liquid, while ingredients on her kitchen counter cascade to the floor. There is utter loss of control; a disaster in the making.
Her apparent condition resonates with the madness of normal life, with the stresses of multitasking and a world of unrealistic and conflicting expectations, of intense personal and social pressures that take their toll on us all. (Levine)
And thats just the tip of the iceberg.
The Neuberger Museum of Art has named the extraordinary Dana Schutz as the 2011 winner of its biannual Roy R. Neuberger Prize, which celebrates an artist with an early-career survey and catalogue. The prize is a natural extension of Mr. Neubergers lifelong commitment to support the work of living artists.