It is impossible not to like Dana Schutz and to root for her work. Her new show at Zach Feuer was packed at its opening last Friday, with Schutz looking extremely tired, as her many young artist fans tried to get a piece of her.
In many ways, Schutz' new work is her most humorous and lighthearted to date. What both intrigues and bothers me about her painting is the incompleteness of her style. She bases her approach on found classics from art history, tears them up and reassembles them. This procedure creates luminous little pockets of paint handling, in which you marvel at Dana's layers, crosshatching and general daubing.
Her drawing is another matter. Not capable of moving beyond a one-dimensional goofiness, Schutz subjects herself to stark comparison with her unintentional influences. The new show, for example, could be put right next to the satirical japes of Robert Colescott and one could hardly tell them apart.
Figuratively, Schutz also owes a lot to Larry Rivers, particularly his introduction of a grand theme with feet of clay into an otherwise ridiculous environment, most famously realized in Washington Crossing the Delaware (1973). How Dana approaches the canvas, as a sort of puzzling irritant, comes straight out of Hans Hofmann. Each is allergic to the idea of the whole, to filling the picture plane with harmonious resonance, when busy play and visually inappropriate objects will jar and confuse.
Over the course of a show, this tendency to busyness keeps Schutz, for all the minor charm of her brushwork, from being a truly great painter or first tier conceptualist. For her next exhibition, a few months at the sketch pad, some meditation in three dimensions and abandoning both classics and her generation's tendency to all things juvenile would be advisable.
Dana Schutz, "Missing Pictures," Mar. 13-Apr. 25, 2009, at Zach Feuer Gallery, 530 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).