Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Artist of the Week 07/19/05

This week, I'm breaking the pattern of discussing "underappreciated" artists to discuss one who's getting a good deal of attention, but may not yet be a household name outside the inner art world.

Dana Schutz is one of the art world's latest rising stars. As such, despite being an incredibly nice person (or so I'm told...I haven't met her yet), she's the target of a great deal of criticism among other artists. Most of this criticism strikes me as feeding from jealousy (Dana makes paintings, you either like them or you don't, but even if you don't, the only conceivable rationale for making a federal case out of how much you don't like them would be that you're jealous of her success).

I'm still learning to appreciate Dana's work myself, and I like that about it. Work that's instantly accessible generally bores me after a few viewings, and I'm always excited to see one of Dana's pieces in an exhibition. I don't always like them, but I like to see them.

Despite my current on-the-fence position about her work, I found myself defending it recently to two friends who were very upset by it. We stood before a giant piece of hers in a public collection and I explained what I found exhilarating about it, what I found masterful about it, and why I can accept (until my own epiphany) that others much more experienced in judging art than I am are absolutely nuts about it. My friends walked away shaking their heads unconvinced (I'm perhaps not the best person to try and convince them though). Here's a piece like the one we were discussing (but it wasn't this one):

Dana Schutz, Civil Planning, 2004, Oil on canvas, 114” x 168”

Represented in New York by Zach Feuer Gallery, Dana's work feeds from incredibly rich and fascinating narratives. In the exhibition that proved her breakaway show, "Frank from Observation," she created a series of paintings around the premise that she and "Frank" were the last two people on the earth. As she noted in the press release "The man is the last subject and the last audience and, because the man isn't making any paintings, I am the last painter." Here's one of the works from that exhibition (the one at the top is from this show as well):

Dana Schutz Frank on a Rock, 2002, Oil on canvas, 66" x 47"

In her next solo exhibition at the gallery she constructed a world of "people with the unusual ability to devour themselves." As the press release for that exhibition noted, Schutz employs humor and wit to lighten the otherwise rather perverse subject matter. Consider this piece:

Dana Schutz, Mulch, 2004, Oil on canvas, 22” x 28”

The arm's sharp angle as the hand grabs the dismembered leg and the flattened placement of the eyes (both references to Picasso?) are so over the top, you can't help but enjoy them (in an early teen's appreciation for things that gross you out sort of way). And, in what's perhaps an indication of her growing awareness that she's carving out her own place, Schutz is referencing art history even more grandly in a piece she finished for the "Greater New York" exhibition. Seen below, the massive painting references perhaps Ensor and Rembrandt, and indicates a growing security about what she's doing:

Dana Schutz, Presentation, 2005, Oil on canvas, 120" x 168"

Again, I find that I like some of Dana's paintings better than others, but I'm never less than thrilled to find one. I like the idea that I have time to discover the work and that an artist as young as her (born 1976) has years left in which to amaze the rest of us.


Anonymous Mark said...

Sometimes hit or miss, who dosen't.. she's really stretching herself. When she hits it's quite impressive. I immediatly thought of Ensor when I first saw Presentation.

7/19/2005 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

When she hits it's quite impressive.

Totally agree.

7/19/2005 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous crionna said...

Cool. THe top one looked like graphic art and seems rather different from the rest.

7/19/2005 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I had to reduce the size of that top one a bit...it's much more painterly in real life...see bigger image here.

7/19/2005 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

David Park, Elmer Bischoff.... seen it.

7/19/2005 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

so what do credit all the hoopla to, tyler?

7/19/2005 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

One: Paintings sell. Schutz is primarily a market-driven sub-phenomenon.

Two: Big, colorful, fantastical paintings really sell. See Currin, John.

Three: The east coast has never, ever warmed up to work pioneered in California and the West. This goes for Clyfford Still in the 1940s, Richard Diebenkorn and David Park in the 1950s and 1960s, and even Bob Irwin in the 1970s and 1980s. Because NYCers believe that NYC is the Center of the World, their art historical memory when it comes to artists from California is, er, nawso good. "Civil Planning" is the love-child of a Joan Brown-David Park painting.

7/19/2005 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

yes, paintings sell, but unless there's some conspiracy behind elevating Dana to the top spot, there must be more to why her paintings sell than all other other ham-fisted, colorful, fantastical work out there...it can't all just be luck, no?

7/20/2005 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous jj said...

I agree with Tyler's position but add that of all the hot painters out there Schutz is the one that best points out how incredibly conservative, devoid of ideas and self referential this painting bloom has been. She has her brush on the pulse of tradition making her a wierd sort of academic history painter.

Also, Ive met her a couple of times... yes, she's nice with a very twisted, classic rock fuelled and essentually midwestern outlook. She isnt a neurotic east coaster, she is a well ajusted midwesterner commenting on neurotic east coasters. A hilarious kind of art therapist.

For some consarned reason nobody ever notices the Emil Nolde, Otto Mueller, Kirchner, Klee and Otto Dix connections either.

She is uneven but when she is on she is the probably the most relevant of the brightly colored fantasy painters.

7/20/2005 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ever hear of Judith Linhares?

7/20/2005 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

this thread is beginning to prove my thesis that success brings with it a more stringent critique..

I guess it's hard to say that at any time in history the rising star artist was obviously more talented than the other artists one could choose to celebrate (and frequently the "star" proved to have been not all that bright), but finding comparisons with other artists does not in and of itself make someone unworthy.

First and foremost, all of us in the art word speak in a vocabulary adopted from a visual language. "This artist is so-and-so meets what's-her-name." "That artist took what's-his-face's underlying structure and plopped whosit's gestures on top."

That's how art is talked about. And it's not necessarily indicative of derivative work.

Judith Linhares, for example, is a good artist to critique Schutz's work in comparison (see this image for example).

For me, overall Linhare's work is much flatter than Schutz's. Sure, there's semmingly a naive rendering and bold pallette in both their works, but where as Schutz piles object over object until they meld together, Linhares arranges things in a two-dimensional plane for the most part. And if you look closer, Schutz's rendering is actually more complex than it seems at first, using color in jarring juxtapositions to create depth, and a good deal more perspective, etc. etc. I could go on.

What's thrilling about Schutz, in my opinion, is I can't take it all in at once. Her more successful pieces, again, are more complex than than a cursory viewing reveals. Linhares's work is pretty and ironic and all that good stuff, but I get it pretty quickly and just end up wanting more.

7/20/2005 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

I agree that we talk too much about A's work = B+C. But when I do that with an artist it's a sign to me that the artist isn't making work I've never seen before. Julie Mehretu = ?!?!? Maggie Michael = uh.... Etc.

7/21/2005 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Good point Tyler, but, just for the fun of it

Julie Mehretu = Al Held + Yun-fei Ji + a blender (yes, it's a bit of a stretch [and a bit tongue in cheek], but it can be done)

for the Latex on canvas series, anyway, Maggie Michaels = Monique Prieto + Joyce Kim

Although I'm sure one can do that math backwards more convincingly.

7/21/2005 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger carol es said...

hmm. looks very west coast to me.

7/21/2005 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tyler - I don't your statement
" Schutz is primarily a market-driven sub-phenomenon." makes much sense.
People certainly talk about the market, but what about all the critical attention she gets? Are critics really swayed by collectors and money and the market? It seems a little bit of a fluke that the market is so into her work, she's great, but the work is tough and not what I would think of as playing to the collectors or at all commerical. I think it might be hard to live with one of those paintings.

7/21/2005 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

typo. sorry.
Tyler - I don't think.

7/21/2005 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous jj said...

It's typical to refer to the known to gage the unknown. But it isn't flattering when they are compared as a lamer version of so and so though.

Schutz works on a lot of levels, not just because of Saatchi but because she means it and when she's on, she is right on. I can vouch for her sincereity in pointing out the continual cannibalism of the art world. Her sick sense of humor saves the day...

Besides it is normal to have lots of painters working out similar ideas at the same time but its the little things that separate the leader. The main reason she sticks out is she isnt a craft monger, porn as a crutch or obsessive skill fetishist.

Most of the other similar painters are too calculated in their effects... she backs up the beeping garbage truck of fantasy/whimsey painting right now and unloads the steaming compost heap in Saatchi's parking space. Then charges him for the privledge! Sure sometimes her work doesn't do it but at least she doesnt paint some 70's rainbow or unicorn every time she gets stuck. Judge her by her best.

She is brutal and that is refereshing when so many artists today pander to their audience so overtly: Cecily Brown & John Currin come to mind.

Even Barnaby Furnas seems too calculated compared to Schutz, although I like his work. Maybe his ratio of successful pictures is higher but Ill take Schutz's "Dead Zebra" over any 4 Furnas paintings... it is a hilarious comment on and or tribute to Jasper John's Magic Mirror paintings which are pretty meta already.

Still compared to Johns' best work Schutz come up a bit short.

Fantasy whimsey paintings sell but it isnt the genre with the strongest work being produced today and I think that is why Schutz is so contentious for other artists. There is a certain failure in the genre that Schutz has already incorporated poetically.

7/21/2005 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

I always thought Mehretu owed more to Kandinsky.

7/21/2005 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

good call henry (that's what I get for playing that game on an empty stomach).

JJ, righteous rant!

7/21/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

In Tyler's original comment, his three points speak not to the quality of the paintings, but to the reception of those paintings. If that's criticism, it's bad faith criticism, as everything surrounding a work of art should be secondary to the consideration of the work itself. That's not to say that they cannot be considered, but you have to use your senses first.

I agree with many of the other commenters on this thread. I like Schutz's ambition (and her related willingness to be 'imperfect' and to 'fail' on a grand scale), her lurid colors (maybe we can use the phrase "Ensor on vacation in Tahiti with Gauguin" to describe the work at P.S.1), her variations in scale, her sense of humo,r and her sense of the absurd. I sometimes have difficulty "getting" paintings--I'm not a painter--but that doesn't stop me from appreciating someone whose efforts seem honest and whose successes are so visually satisfying.

7/22/2005 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

in all fairness to Tyler though, Brian, he was responding to my question about why all the hoopla, not offering a critique of the paintings.

7/22/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Point taken. I am susceptible to jumping the gun, so to speak. Perhaps unfairly, I put his comment in the context of his greater body of writings, in which the ratio of comments on art to comments on 'hoopla' surrounding art is, to my mind, imbalanced.

Off to see Cezanne/Pissarro (and back to lurking). Have a good Friday.

7/22/2005 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Enjoy Cezanne/Pissarro, Brian, but please feel free to comment whenever, even if jumping the gun... ;-)

your assessment of Dana's work was spot on and welcome!

7/22/2005 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Brian will, perhaps, be delighted to know that in addition to my weekly 700-900 word review on art for Bloomberg (which, presumably, he doesn't see), that I have two 4,000-word magazine stories coming out in the next month or two: One on Clyfford Still, and the other on the Saarinens' 1939 unbuilt design for the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Plus a Shirin Neshat profile coming up, a recent Boston Globe op-ed....

7/22/2005 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Of course, Tyler, I know about all the projects you're working on. And I read most of your reviews--I can access wire services through NYU research databases--though when they appear in various papers I suspect they are often truncated. Anyway, pissing matches are lame and, despite my early morning fiery rheotric, not what I intended to start, so I'll leave it at that.

"Cezanne/Pissarro" was tough to see for two reasons: 1) the crowds; 2) Peter Schjehldal's words, which echoed in my head the whole time.

7/22/2005 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Yes, you're right, the wire version(s) are deeply truncated.

7/22/2005 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

Most of this criticism strikes me as feeding from jealousy (Dana makes paintings, you either like them or you don't, but even if you don't, the only conceivable rationale for making a federal case out of how much you don't like them would be that you're jealous of her success).

And the only place the comment below is a conceivable rationale is in the art world.

I'm still learning to appreciate Dana's work myself, and I like that about it. Work that's instantly accessible generally bores me after a few viewings, and I'm always excited to see one of Dana's pieces in an exhibition. I don't always like them, but I like to see them.

If the art world has no new Koons shows there's always the amusement of such hopefulness (and financial benefit in return of your desperate chasing of what eventually will be your hollow soul).

Have a wonderful day, boys!

7/23/2005 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

If the art world has no new Koons shows there's always the amusement of such hopefulness (and financial benefit in return of your desperate chasing of what eventually will be your hollow soul).

perhaps you like your "meaning" served up bite-sized or even already chewed for you Nikki, but I'll take mine raw and do the hard work myself, if it's all the same to you. ;-)

7/23/2005 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

Edwards, are you like Michael Caine in Educating Rita?

7/23/2005 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Edwards, are you like Michael Caine in Educating Rita?

Nah, more like Michael Caine in "Miss Congeniality"...you wouldn't happen to be a Sandra Bullock type, would ya?

7/23/2005 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one else sees the Delaunays and the Blue Rider Group brushed into this mix?

9/18/2005 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haved personally known dana for years and like her work, but she is also WAY overhyped and her work often falls very short in person which is the worst way to fall short in painting. She has painting subject matter like this since she was an undergrad so it isn't that impressive. All your comments reflect exactly what the problem is with her work and the artworld and painting in general. The whole canniblism of the artworld bullshit???????? That isn't dana, that is some critic reading that shit into her work trying to make it more valid than it is. Straight up, she is just making goofy ugly paintings because that is what she does and always has. Now she is trying to inject political issues etc.. and its just making them shittier because of that. Painting like hers shouldn't be attempting to talk about that shit anyway. Thats also nice you enjoy her historical references, but that shows why she reflects the non-innovativeness of the art-world. People who continually reference tha past show they don't REALLY have anything to say and just keep painting stagnant. Her success reflects that painting really is DEAD and the artworlds obsession with trying to convice itself it is still culturally valid and that nyc is where it all happens bullshit. etc. et.c vet.b.c.g.e=

12/06/2005 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i find Dana Schutz art gross and visually overwhelming. she uses shock value to get attention which works for sales but doesnt make good art. good for her though for being able to milk the nyc market.

12/13/2005 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The term "jealousy" is a reductive characterization of the bitterness that some feel about the meterioic rise of a mediocre talent like Dana Schutz. On the one part of many technical contemporary painters, there may be a nostalgia or bewilderment about what it feels like to leave a painting in such sloppy condition (sign of a messy mind) and be praised for it. This persoanl mess is then crticially used to demonstrate the permanent scar of twentieth-century modernism -- and thus demonstrate an underlying doubt in our ability to overstand the objective world. That said, Schutz's hand is, for this style, better than the idiocy of Linhares, Sillman or others.

12/24/2005 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Cholo said...

Dana can paint and yes, I've heard about Judy Linhares. Now that's a painter. Can't we all just get along? Better yet, why not introduce Dana to Carl Andre so that he can push her career along?

9/05/2006 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous MO said...

oh man, i cant stomach the cynicism. dana makes great paintings. painting is an old form, it's easy and even makes sense to make comparisons to previous painters. i think its funny that some people are still hung up on painting as some sort of endgame, like it can be dead or something. thats like saying "apartments are dead". you know, "we should all move to outerspace, thats whats new". come on. painting is as valid as it is as long as we are able to be moved by it in some way. art is art. also, modernism isnt a "scar on the 20th century", its just how people responded to changes in their worlds. dana's work is not clear and refreshing because of some new material technology, it works because it is honest and human. and the comment on "sloppy painting being the sign of a messy mind", now that is truly hilarious, if not fascist. one last thing, while there is a huge amount of talent all over the world, including the west coast, NYC is the center of many worlds, the art world being one of them.

9/22/2006 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again,we are inside the story,"The Emperor's New Clothes". That so many authentic observers - artists and others - cringe at another naked emperor being lauded for being so ordinary (c'mon; how many Dana's have we all seen in high school,doing the same psuedo-sensational,mediocre'blahstuff?)is something that should be paid attention to: could it be that they are (gulp)the honest ones? That just maybe, before another deep pocket sucker, willing to pay a fortune in another of their many desperate attempts to be hip, believing in the snake-oil vendors that dealers have become, they should pay heed to Dana's detractors. Her "handlers", critics, self-serving gallery
hosts,dealers,etc., - anyone standing to make their fortune if they can "make her a household word" (?!)have the usual greedy motive,don't they? Why didn't any of them "discover her genius" before, in high school and college? Why doesn't she herself "get" the "artspeak" critiques more labor-intensive than her work itself? The fad of hype/sell/starmake the young,emerging artist is itself suspect. Did all their mothers eat plutonium when gestating? So many geniuses! So much wisdom out of the mouths of babes! To call those unswayed by the obvious hype (are we to believe that those raving about her wonders are really so much more conscious than the rather savvy people who complain about her and other "Emperor's"? Somebody be for real!)"Jealous",or "mostly jealous artists"?- maybe a better word would be "resentful": - and rightfully so; it is frustrating to pour a lifetime of one's heart and soul into one's work,take it seriously,take art itself reverently, endure too many decades of too many
emperors, patiently,or impatiently wait for the bullshit
marketing artistry itself to grow up and come to its senses (because the buying public finally demands real satisfaction after finally identifying its real hungers),can generate not jealousy, but rage. People like Dana, who get handed too much, too fast for too little, will never know how little of the phenomenon that is her current status is actually attributable to her "work" but to the star-making,self-serving machinery that has been the disgracefully degenerate art market for quite some time,now. But she will figure it out when,as happened to so many "stars" of the 80's whose names are long-forgotten, their rabid patrons,each out a few hundred thousand dollars, embarrassed and chagrinned by their own stupidity, that she better have invested her fortune well. As for the rest of us - evidently, the real art is in the marketing. And as P.T.Barnum liked to say: "There's a sucker born every minute."

11/19/2006 03:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree, Anonomous. Worse,no one seems willing to recognize the stuff of the generation that promotes this crap.30-something dealers and born-yesterday galleryists, noted for materialism and a stunning lack of depth.They came up knowing that art equals big money, like they also did with real estate, the stock market,etc. Sure, it's not a conspiracy...just a mind-set, and a cultural ignorance developed when the race to "buy stuff" began at the expense of human spiritual weight - with or without religion - that sets them apart from the generations before them, when easy access to endless credit made everybody a kid in the candy store of "buyables". But for lack of discovery of the genuine genius in art, or maybe from an actual derth of artists of profound talent who have become disheartened since the 80's explosion of frantic fakes flooding the market, they have been squeezed out, and are sitting on the sidelines- the real National Treasures, waiting for the kids to clear out of the way.(If someone sought them out, and promoted them, we'd have a return into the sun of real- not necessarily realistic - art). In fact, I was at an exhibition recently of a mid-career artist who's work was miraculous but she had become reclusive, rarely showing. I overheard someone commenting on this, but added "too bad her work is so soulful,and beautiful.There's no interest in the art market for that right now. People are looking for pieces that have less depth and substance because then they don't have to be up to it, or live like that themselves. They'd rather let someone else tell them what is acceptable to buy, or appreciate". Like the way Mary Boon wouldn't piss on Basquiat if he were on fire -until he was Warhol's compadre'. Suddenly, he was in her gallery basement, painting stick figures on a white fence, which she sold a few hours later to some stupid sucker who hung on HER word for his validity. By themselves, there was no integrity in what they wanted to drop $400,000 on that afternoon. The collectors should take stock of themselves and attempt to change the history now in the making of supporting more B.S. But that would mean they'd have to get down with a personal overhaul to dig some depth into their shallow,wasteful selves...wake up to the trend/fashion of designer marketing. These are the people whose real hunger is for status for status sake: designer clothes, Hummers, the art of the superficial. That is what this era is going to be known for. A shame for them and a tragedy for any artist who sacrifices their life to actually communicate - the way music does. You can't fool people about music no matter what the genre, because it hits you in the heart and no one wants to read a bunch of writing that has to explain a piece in order to lead the listener into appreciation. In fact, without the endless hyping of ordinary (at best) derivative, unoriginal art that just sits there on the wall, no one would know anything about Dana Whats-her-name, or so many other ho-hum artists that "just want to make stuff" as Dana said, or stay out of a day job and otherwise have little to say worth saying - especially because they are too young and inexperienced to have an inner landscape from which to draw. The current climate and practice of making huge money off of young "emerging artists" is such a glaring commentary which,in itself should warn buyers against it, simply BECAUSE it's a trend. Anyone knows that it is impossible that so many such 20-something "artists"/discoveries could be bonafide and exist -or that there are suddenly so many dealers and gallery owners who are equally prodigious, knowledgeable, trustworthy entrepenuers. It just proves that such a team of three: artist - dealer - collector, are approaching art and the business of art with their noses up on the glass, instead of from a truly personal, authentic and culturally responsible place within themselves. At least in music and other art forms, people don't have be talked into loving it. They trust themselves to decide. They're more careful about spending even $14 for a CD, or $100 for a theatre ticket, yet, they think nothing of dropping five or six figures on a piece of canvas based on the word of an unproven, agenda-driven, equally young and unseasoned dealer who they'd be more careful about if he were selling cars - another item one knows a bit why they like a certain one. The famous "I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like" should be appraised more: does one have to "know anything" about music to absolutely HAVE to Have it? I truly doubt that people are standing in front of Dana's paintings and getting that buzz of "have to have this!" Buyers should consider their classic lack of original thinking themselves and find some integrity before anymore fledgling artists forget they are the "product", the fodder for someone else's wealth objectives and have to continue to cry all the way to the bank for being thus cheated out of being genuinely assessed by genuinely honest dealers or art lovers who can help them grow. I guess it's gonna be another long night in the world of visual art.

11/19/2006 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Dispenser said...

CRazy Stufff.... I just Read all these Blogs And i have to do an artists presentation on DS, in about five hours or so.....So I'm Going On my eye gut instincts here and giving DS one thumb up, one thumb down for the Art world and one middle finger Because i can... its freedom of expression baby and thats what its all about, so lets just get to the business of enjoying art or not

2/27/2008 04:41:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home