Dana Schutz, Shaking Out the Bed, 2015, oil on canvas, 9’ 6” × 17’ 9 3/4”.

Dana Schutz

Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

Dana Schutz, Shaking Out the Bed, 2015, oil on canvas, 9’ 6” × 17’ 9 3/4”.

When was the last time you walked into a show of paintings and couldn’t remember your art-history safe word? Dana Schutz’s recent display of twelve canvases and four charcoal drawings overwhelmed. Every work, all but one from 2015, had so much going on in any corner that there was little room for the viewer. I didn’t find these works easy to like. I mean this as a compliment: I liked them very much.

Schutz does give us some familiar things to hang on to, including her trademark portraiture that makes her the Bruegel of our time. (I’m also reminded that she grew up looking at Diego Rivera’s murals in Detroit.) But rather than encountering the lonely pathos that sneaked into many earlier works (her Swimming, Smoking, Crying from 2009 comes to mind), we fall in and out of stages of embodiment—if embodiment means locating the self under conditions of containment—whether

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