- Dana Schutz
- Singed Picnic
- signed and dated 2008 on the reverse
- oil on canvas
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2008
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Eclipse: Art in a Dark Age, 2008, n.p., illustrated in colour
Purchase, Neuberger Museum of Art; Miami, Miami Art Museum; and Denver, Denver Art Museum, Dana Schutz: If the Face had Wheels, 2011, p. 62, illustrated in colour
London, Saatchi Gallery, Body Language, 2013-14, p. 75, illustrated in colour
Dana Schutz quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, If it Appears in the Desert, 2008, p. 4.
Dana Schutz’s art revolves around a blurring of genres and styles, mixing the traditional and the innovative to create works that are both distinctive and disturbing. Singed Picnic is a powerful example of this, depicting an idyllic view of a group sharing a meal in a bucolic, pastoral setting under a pleasant orange sun. At first glance all seems well, however upon closer inspection we can see the protagonists have been disfigured, with parts of their bodies seemingly burnt or carved away by an unknown disaster. The moment that we the viewer observe is stuck forever in time, between pleasure and catastrophe, the interim before they are deconstructed by whatever has befallen them. They are the victims of the banal violence often apparent in Schutz’s imaginings.
The idea of construction and deconstruction is an important theme that runs throughout Schutz’s practice. Some of her earliest works depict cannibals fully engaged in consuming others or even themselves, and sometimes set within a lush and vibrant Pagan landscape. In the artist’s narrative such figures have control of their own annihilation, fully conscious as they feast upon each other or gorge upon their own limbs, functioning within the perverse logic that defines Schutz’s painting. In Singed Picnic the group have no such choice; they are the victims of circumstance, not the arbiters of their own destruction. No longer is the artist the curious observer – as in her early works in which she brings her subjects to life only to watch them cannibalise themselves and each other – instead Schutz has become the destructive force behind the evisceration of her painting’s unwitting subjects.
Singed Picnic marks an important evolution in Schutz’s style; from the spontaneous impasto prevalent in her earlier work to a much more controlled and patterned approach as evident in this painting. Schutz herself has said that she wanted the work “to have the feeling of frothy ocean water… to be less heavy and oily and be more drawing based” (Dana Schutz quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels, 2011, p. 95). This lightness and sumptuous colour contrasted with the effects of the unknown catastrophe combine to create a painting that is at once beautiful and yet deeply unsettling.