In Dana Schutz’s latest show, Fight in an Elevator, each composition is confined to the space its respective subject matter. The contents of the work push up against the perimeter, breaking the fourth wall and giving the viewer a sense of being within the painting itself, rather than providing simply a traditional outside perspective. Entranced by quotidian moments suspended in time, Schutz dissects and rearranges forms to depict something strangely beautiful.
For her second show at the Petzel Gallery, Schutz has created twelve mostly large-scale oil-on-canvas paintings and four drawings in charcoal on paper. Approaching her work, Schutz drew her ideas on canvas before painting them–a process she had never used before. Perhaps as a result, each piece is strong in its narration, whether a portrait of lion tamer caught in the beast’s mouth or the primal aggression of an elevator brawl.
The stories themselves seem random, inspired by news headlines or a walk down the street. However, the characterized actions are linked by a multitude of eccentric artistic references and styles, from Cubism to Expressionism, which converge on a grand scale. The images seem fearless in their risk of sweeping strokes and bold colorful abstractions that meld bodies and objects into a juxtaposition of odd shapes. Commonplace scenes of everyday life are mixed with impossible situations, transforming each into dynamic works full of boundless movement and quirk.
For Schutz, this new body of work has helped establish her as one of the great contemporary artists under 40 who can claim to be in the collections of all four of New York City’s major museums. She has transformed figurative painting into something exciting and new, separated from mundanity and, oddly, constraint.
Dana Schutz: Fight in an Elevator
September 10 – October 24, 2015
Petzel Gallery: 456 W 18th Street New York, New York 10011