Dana Schutz: Biography

Dana Schutz is known for formally inventive canvases that combine figuration and abstraction to construct complex visual narratives that engage the capacity of painting to represent subjective experience. Often depicting figures in seemingly impossible, enigmatic, or invented situations, her expressive canvases convey emotions and psychological states of mind that reveal the complications, tensions, and ambiguities of contemporary life. 

As Peter Schjeldahl notes, Schutz “vivifies present conditions of life on a faltering planet as dramatically as an artist can while staying devoted to aesthetic ideals.” She achieves this through her singular approach to the medium of painting. Schjeldahl continues, “Painting wet-in-wet with oils, building thick and eventful surfaces, she creates allegories of uncertain but torrid, gnashing implication, a bit like the enigmatic narratives of the German modern master Max Beckmann, but less solemn. 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.”1

Schutz was born in 1976 in Livonia, Michigan, and received her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art, Ohio and her MFA from Columbia University, New York. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. 

In 2023, a major solo exhibition of the artist’s work will be on view at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark. The presentation will subsequently travel to Musée d'art moderne de Paris. 

Recent solo museum exhibitions of Schutz’s work include Dana Schutz: Eating Atom Bombs held at the Transformer Station, Cleveland, Ohio (2018), which debuted a series of paintings by the artist; an exhibition of new work at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2017); a career survey at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2015); and a comprehensive solo exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield, England (2013), that traveled to the kestnergesellschaft, Hannover, Germany (2014). 

In 2011, the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York presented Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels, a retrospective featuring paintings and drawings created by the artist over the previous decade. The show subsequently traveled to the Miami Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum in 2012–2013. 

The artist’s work has been the subject of additional solo presentations at institutions worldwide, among them the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2012); Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Georgia (2011); Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2010); and Museo d’arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Italy (2010). In 2006, the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts presented Dana Schutz: Paintings 2002–2005 which, later that same year, traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio. The artist’s first solo museum presentation was held in 2004 at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson Community College, Overland Park, Kansas.

A major monograph was published by Rizzoli in 2010 that surveys Schutz’s painted works and includes an essay by art historian and critic Barry Schwabsky.

Schutz’s work is held in numerous public collections, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museo d’arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Italy; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Rubell Museum, Miami; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Kansas; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Peter Schjeldahl, “Dana Schutz’s Paintings Wring Beauty from Worldwide Calamity.” The New Yorker (January 21, 2019).

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