Dana Schutz is back at the top of her game, painting with prodigious facility. Droll nods to Matisse and Picasso abound in this baker’s dozen of new canvases, though they seem more in the spirit of Philip Guston, given Schutz’s cartoony style and her ability to make portentously symbolic activities (shooting up heroin in a storm) appear ordinary. Meanwhile, everyday reflexes (yawning) feel pregnant with meaning.
The phenomenal Small Apartment shows one large-headed character consoling another across a table, with crumpled tissues, a floral Kleenex box and a window, overlooking a blooming garden, between them; it’s Peanuts crossed with thirtysomething. Although Schutz renders their faces as little more than squiggles and smudges, she manages to convey a pitch-perfect tragicomic tenor.
The 13-foot-wide Building the Boat While Sailing depicts a crew of young people adrift at sea. On this slacker Raft of the Medusa, however, sailors aren’t suffering and dying. Instead, they desultorily examine blueprints, drill holes, trim the sail and even plane wood with their teeth, while others lounge daydreaming or spit arcs of water à la Bruce Nauman.
Flasher depicts a fully clothed figure, with wavy hair like the artist’s, opening a trench coat to reveal not just wristwatches for sale, but also a schematic alarm clock, scissors and an entire repertoire of painterly marks and gestures. In this self-portrait of the artist as a young exhibitionist, Schutz exposes herself by showing her wares.—Joseph R. Wolin