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Various organizations including Andes Amazon Fund,… Read more Property to Benefit Art into Acres

The Fishermen

The Fishermen
signed and dated 'Dana Schutz 2021' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
90 x 96 in. (228.6 x 243.8 cm.)
Painted in 2021.
Donated by the artist and David Zwirner, New York
Special notice
Various organizations including Andes Amazon Fund, Global Wildlife Conservation and the Wyss Foundation have committed to donating a cumulative 300% in leveraged matching funds associated with the hammer price of this lot. Property intended to benefit Art into Acres.

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

Dana Schutz is known for her bold and dramatic canvases that combine abstract elements with striking gestural figuration. Often combining recognizable subject matter with a healthy dose of the grotesque, the comical, or the absurd, she paints powerful canvases that reward extended viewing. The Fishermen is a striking example of the artist’s new work and continues her exploration of traditional motifs filtered through a surreal painterly style. Speaking about the present work, Schutz explains, "A boat can be like a contained world within the painting. In The Fishermen, the boat is confined, almost like a fruit bowl and the characters within seem to be similar to the creatures they are catching. They are rudderless, as an oar-like sunbeam seems to be pushing them downriver" (D. Schutz, in conversation with Christie’s, April 2021).
Drawing upon Surrealism and the history of painting in equal measure, The Fishermen is drenched in a strong vibrant palette reminiscent of Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa. Filled with a myriad of symbols and painterly marks, the work also evokes the late figurative paintings of Philip Guston. Against a rich crimson sky and a dark arterial sea, a cast of characters ride in a rudimentary boat. In the rear, a man with sparse blonde hair and a red shirt wraps his arms around a cache of fish and bones. Another figure, its distorted, magenta face resting in the crook of the previous man’s arm, stares upward. In the background, a head made of red, blue, green, and brown strokes features a prominent eye and a gash of a mouth. All three of these individuals, including the fish, gaze at a yellow, sun-like shape in the upper reaches of the canvas with a mixture of awe and apprehension. In the bow of the boat, a sleeping person with green eye shadow lolls a striped blue and black arm into the surf ahead of the ship. Their hand is nearly entangled in the fishing net cast over the starboard side and which appears to be filled with a mass of darkly painted flotsam and jetsam.
The motif used in The Fishermen is one that Schutz has used before in her Boat Group (2020). In that particular work, she “turns the still-life cliché, a bowl of fruit, into a crazed Raft of the Medusa. In place of plums and apples we get a gang of monstrous heads, glowing with colour like luminous deep-sea creatures, and ready to topple overboard. A Punch-type puppet dangles its lifeless arm like a redundant oar, leaving them directionless in blood-black waves” (S. Sherwin, “Dana Schutz’s Boat Group: dystopian visions and existential angst,” The Guardian, Sept. 25, 2020).
At the core of Schutz’s paintings is an abiding interest in expressing emotion. The brushwork makes the artist’s hand readily apparent, and these thick strokes form characters that are imbued with a psychological weight that swells within the canvas. The artist David Salle remarked about this aspect of Schutz’s work, saying, “They have the look of feelings made external. They give a sense of the great freedom of mind at the core of painting, the exhilaration of it” (D. Salle, “Dana Schutz”, Artforum, December 2011). In works like The Fishermen, the angst and pressure of an individual living during a global pandemic bursts forth with a riotous vigor. At the same time, though the colors are vibrant and verge on gruesome, there is an odd calm about the composition. Schutz paints a pregnant pause filled with all of tomorrow’s possibilities.
The Fishermen is donated by the artist to support the permanent conservation of 2.5 million acres of land in partnership with Art to Acres, an artist-run non-profit. These Indigenous-led conservation projects provide habitat and migration on landscapes with high levels of biodiversity. As a strategic climate donation, this painting will receive a cumulative 300% in matching funds from partner organizations including Andes Amazon Fund, Global Wildlife Conservation and the Wyss Foundation. The funds support formal protection status at a national level. Conserving intact ecosystems is one of the leading ways to maintain the planet’s ability to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide and to mitigate climate change. Land conservation is a natural climate solution, underlying efforts to protect at least 30% of the world by 2030 to reduce carbon emissions, conserve biodiversity and sustain nature’s services like clean water. Both art and conservation engage legacy and permanence and exist to benefit future generations. Speaking of this project, Schutz says "Art for Acres is an incredible organization. The work they do is astounding and urgent. It is such an honor to be donating The Fishermen to large-scale land preservation" (D. Schutz, in conversation with Christie’s, April 2021).

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