Beau Rutland Former Associate Curator of Contemporary Art
Reto Thüring Curator of Contemporary Art
Assembling an Octopus in the contemporary galleries
This winter Dana Schutz returns to Cleveland with Eating Atom Bombs, an exhibition of new work that debuts at the Transformer Station. A 2000 graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, Schutz lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two children. Her lively work has appeared in Cleveland several times: the survey exhibition Dana Schutz: Paintings 2002–2006 traveled to MOCA Cleveland in 2006, and her monumental canvas Assembling an Octopus is currently on view in the CMA’s contemporary gallery 229. Prior to that, one of Schutz’s famous depictions of people in the midst of eating themselves—part of an early series of paintings—was on view at the museum. She also recently delivered the CMA’s Contemporary Artist Lecture.
An internationally regarded painter, Schutz is best known for her dynamic figurative works that seek to explore humanity and its many guises, whether comic or violent in nature. Her intricate compositions are marked by vivid color combinations and dynamic brushwork, pointing to her deep interest in the history of painting and its future possibilities. Historical references guide her work, with allusions to artists such as Alice Neel, Théodore Géricault, and Max Beckmann.
Eating Atom Bombs features a series of paintings created mostly in the past year. The works reflect the turbulent political atmosphere in the wake of the 2016 US national election. “Many of the paintings depict dystopic scenes of conflict and shame,” Schutz says. “Subjects conceal and reveal themselves, trying to hold themselves—and the picture—together.” Although our society may seem more divided than ever, the exhibition suggests that this uncertainty may, in fact, serve to unite us.
Conflict 2017. Dana Schutz (American, born 1976). Oil on canvas; 238.8.x 208.3 cm. © Dana Schutz, courtesy of Petzel Gallery, New York
Cleveland Art, January/February 2018