Dana Schutz Opens July 26 at the ICA

(BOSTON, MA – July 24, 2017) — On July 26, The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens Dana Schutz. Schutz is among the foremost painters of her generation and is part of a group of artists leading a revival of painting today. Her distinct combination of figuration and abstraction, expressive color palette, and her use of imagined and hypothetical scenarios are unique among her contemporaries. The artist’s work captures the frenzy, tension, vulnerability, and struggle of life today, as her subjects actively manage, even fight, both the limitations of the canvas and their depicted environments.

The impressive scale of many of Schutz’s paintings reference the monumentality of history painting, the genre considered most important in the history of Western art. Her paintings challenge history painting’s typical subjects–heroic portrayals of historical and allegorical events–and instead monumentalize everyday scenes (laying in bed, getting dressed, carpooling, riding in an elevator).  Schutz confronts the traditional hierarchies of painting and expands the possibilities for the medium today.

Dana Schutz, a concise survey of the artist’s recent work, comprises 17 paintings, several at monumental scale and including two new ones, and four charcoal drawings. Schutz’s enormous new painting, Big Wave (2016), acquired by the ICA in December, is on view for the first time in the United States. Open through November 26, Dana Schutz is organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Jessica Hong, Curatorial Associate.

“Drawing on the legacies of both figurative and abstract painting, with nods to touchstone figures such as George Grosz and Max Beckmann, Schutz’s unique voice in painting exemplifies the expansive possibilities of the medium today,” said Respini.

Over the last decade, Schutz has honed her approach to painting, creating tightly structured scenarios and compressed interiors. Her works capture subjects who seem to be actively managing, even fighting, the limitations of their depicted environments—boundaries set by the canvases’ actual borders.

Schutz’s paintings often show hypothetical or impossible physical feats and explore the uncanny through wit and the expressive use of color. Her physically imposing canvases—one nearly 18 feet—are worlds onto themselves. Building the Boat While Sailing (2012) displays a mass of people, working, sailing, and lounging, all at once. Shaking out the Bed (2015) portrays a couple in bed seen from a birds-eye vantage point, a common gesture transformed by the artist into a tornado of energy that includes pizza slices, body parts, cups, and dirty laundry. In Big Wave (2016) two figures in the foreground play in the sand, seemingly oblivious to the ferocious incoming tidal wave that is swallowing up fish, a tangle of bodies, and assorted objects.

Dana Schutz also includes several paintings illustrating single figures involved in everyday scenarios such as showering or getting dressed. Works that have a more melancholy tenor include Piano in the Rain (2012) and Slow Motion Shower (2015), where each protagonist is encased within the work’s tight borders. Schutz’s vibrant color palette is widely expressive, encompassing violence, wit, melancholy, and absurdity. Teeming with energy, commotion, and struggle, her paintings capture a high level of tension and compression that is part of today’s zeitgeist.

Artist Bio

Dana Schutz was born in Livonia, a suburb of Detroit, in 1976. The artist earned a B.F.A. at the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2000 and an M.F.A. at Columbia University, New York, in 2002. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Rose Museum, Brandeis University (2006); Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto (2010); Neuberger Museum of Art (2011); Miami Art Museum (2012); Denver Museum of Contemporary Art and Denver Art Museum (2012); Hannover Kesterngesellschaft and Hepworth Wakefield (2013); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2015/2016), her first solo exhibition at a Canadian institution; and a forthcoming exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art (2017). She was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, where one of her paintings ignited a vigorous debate around the role of art, artists, and institutions in the representation of race, a conversation that resonates with larger issues in our current political and cultural landscape.

Exhibition-related programming

THU, SEP 14 | 6 PM
Curator’s Perspective: Eva Respini with Danielle Legros Georges on Dana Schutz
Barbara Lee Chief Curator Eva Respini discusses Dana  Schutz’s paintings with Danielle Legros-Georges, Lesley University professor and Boston Poet Laureate, in the galleries. Visitors will gain a greater understanding of Schutz’s artistic influences, get a curator’s perspective on hanging an exhibition of contemporary painting, and consider some of the challenges of organizing a show amidst artist controversy. Capacity is limited; admission is first-come, first served.

THU, SEP 28 | 7 PM
ICA Forum: Representation and Responsibility in Creative Space
Within social, political, and cultural arenas, issues of representation—the act of depicting and/or speaking on behalf of someone—and responsibility have come into even sharper focus in recent months. These issues, surfacing in the commentary surrounding the leadership of the Women’s March, contentious government elections, speeches by literary figures, and calls for the removal of artworks in museums, proliferate news and social media feeds as communities try to make sense of it all in a new era of rapid consumption of information. Within the arts, important questions are being raised, primarily: who gets to represent whom in art? The ICA and Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research invite you to join artists, scholars, and educators in a series of conversations this fall and spring that address ideas of cultural appropriation and creative license in the 21st century. 

SUN, OCT 8 | 2 PM
Gallery Talk: Josephine Halvorson on Dana Schutz
Join artist Josephine Halvorson as she shares her insights on Dana Schutz’s monumental painting Big Wave. Halvorson, whose own artistic practice emphasizes attention to detail and experience, will shed light on Schutz’s painting, which reflects the moods and anxieties of everyday contemporary life. Halvorson is Professor of Art and Chair of Graduate Studies in Painting at Boston University. She was previously Senior Critic in the MFA Painting and Printmaking program at Yale University.

About the ICA

An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for 80 years. Like its iconic building on Boston’s waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA, located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 AM–5 PM; Thursday and Friday, 10 AM–9 PM; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 AM–5 PM.  Admission is $15 adults, $13 seniors and $10 students, and free for members and children 17 and under. Free admission for families at ICA Play Dates (2 adults + children 12 and under) on last Saturday of the month. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at www.icaboston.org. Follow the ICA at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.