Dana Schutz: Building the Boat While Painting

Installation view, Dana Schutz at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 2017 (photo by Charles Mayer Photographer © Dana Schutz)
Installation view, Dana Schutz at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 2017 (photo by Charles Mayer Photographer © Dana Schutz)

Barry Schwabsky reviews an exhibition of works by Dana Schutz at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and subsequently reflects on Schutz's controversial painting of Emmett Till shown in the recent Whitney Biennial.

Schwabsky observes: "It’s in the gap between what can be imagined and what can be represented that art’s capacity for surprise is revealed, which is always related to what Schutz calls 'some problem within the subject.' 'Subject' is a funny, ambiguous word—I think Schutz was using it there in the sense of 'subject matter,' but it also means something like 'self,' the bearer of subjectivity. ... And that ambiguity is also entirely the point of Schutz’s work, which looks for problems in the realm of painting—problems about how a painting is made and what it is made out of—that are also psychological problems: ones not necessarily specific to the painter as an individual, but that might be encountered by anyone trying to construct a life out of the ready-made materials of the world we’ve been thrown into."