Dana Schutz | Wrong Objects Saved for the Future
In equal parts whimsical, macabre and psychologically complex, the dazzlingly resplendent Wrong Objects Saved for the Future epitomizes Schutz’s acclaimed comic-grotesque vision, its cascading fractured shapes and diaphanous planes of color slicing through the familiarity of figuration and objectivity. The work’s fraught pictorial space is radiant and exquisitely luminous, anchored in a beautiful chromatic unity.
Born in 1976, Schutz came to prominence in the early 2000s for her dark humour, rife allusions to art history and provocative subject matter. Known for her “inventive and muscular way of shaping space on canvas to build what her friend, the painter Cecily Brown, called ‘bulletproof constructions’” (Ted Loos, “After the Quake, Dana Schutz Gets Back to Work”, The New York Times, 9 January 2019), Schutz’s bold, surreal figurations comment on pop culture, mythic figures and charged contemporary issues whilst drawing from a deep mine of art historical references encompassing Synthetic Cubism, German Expressionism, CoBrA, Masaccio, and Courbet, amongst others. Schutz’s resulting concoctions are utterly engrossing even as they perplex or even repel, rendering the deep anxieties of contemporary life with searing high-speed bravura as well as shrewdly astute yet good-humoured wit. Peter Schjeldahl observes: “Though her style can suggest Expressionism, it is detached from mere personal emotion. She objectifies anxious states of mind – or of soul” (Peter Schjeldahl, “Dana Schutz”, The New Yorker, online). Schjeldahl also writes: “Schutz creates allegories of uncertain but torrid, gnashing implication […] She does this with almost preposterously extraordinary gifts for composition, paint handling, and, in particular, color, suffusing clashes of hue and tone with ghostly essences of a chromatic unity that you feel rather than quite see” (Ibid). Indeed, in the present work, the balance between structural solidity and phosphorescence, hard and soft, figurative and abstract, culminates in a mesmerizing field of undisputed brilliance.
Wrong Objects Saved for the Future depicts, as its title suggests, a time capsule of objects buried for a potentially nonexistent future audience - or an audience that could only misinterpret them. These objects refer to technologies, histories and narratives that have become obsolete. The eclectic constellation includes a conch shell (referring to the disconnected sense of hearing the ocean where there is no ocean present), CDs with no player, an old radio, a film projector, frozen embryos and organs, cultural artifacts, an abstract painting that recalls the works of Wassily Kandinsky, a car bumper near a dinosaur jaw, the frozen head of Timothy Leary, and a dead hare that refers to Joseph Beuys's performance "How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare" (1965).
Straddling reality and fantasy, history and foresight, mortality and immortality, the present work ranks amongst the most iconic and superior in Schutz’s singular oeuvre. Schutz’s paintings are held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas; and Tel Aviv Museum; Israel, among many others.