Dana Schutz renders grotesque iconography with painterly virtuosity. In her solo exhibition at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal – her first in a Canadian museum – 24 paintings completed over the last 15 years feature deformed faces and contorted bodies that draw on Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection, with deeply unsettling results.
The figure struggling acrobatically to put on clothing in Getting Dressed All at Once (2012) is less illustrative of a department store shopper than of Schutz herself, given the painter’s messy and improvisatory relationship to her chosen medium. There is a punchy dynamism to Schutz’s paintings, and an inherent instability that one assumes she must work hard to achieve, but which nevertheless appears effortless. Her bold palette, animated formal compositions and riffs on 20th-century painting (subtle and not-so-subtle allusions to synthetic cubism and Czech surrealism) give these paintings a commanding presence.