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Dana Schutz (b. 1976)
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Dana Schutz (b. 1976)

Home Birth

Details
Dana Schutz (b. 1976)
Home Birth
oil on canvas
78 x 62 ¼in. (198 x 158cm.)
Painted in 2016
Provenance
Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2016.
Exhibited
Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts, Waiting for the Barbarians, 2016, no. 9.
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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

With its vivid surface stretching nearly two metres in height, Home Birth is a bold, intimate painting by Dana Schutz. Combining raw, visceral figuration with sharp abstract geometries, it epitomises the fragmented painterly language through which she attempts to capture the complexities of human experience. Painted in 2016, just two years after the birth of her own son, the work follows on from the 2007 canvas How We Would Give Birth: a graphic, tortured imagining of labour, whose female subject gazes longingly at a landscape painting on the wall. In the present work, created in the light of personal experience, Schutz strips this early scene of its emotive horror, focusing instead on the abstract interplay of forms, textures and colours. The subject no longer faces away from the viewer, seeking an escape route, but instead confronts them face-on, her body fractured through a series of intersecting planes. A circular frame, evocative of Francis Bacon’s zoom lenses, exposes the moment of birth in all its carnal glory. Drawing inspiration from the depths of art history - from Synthetic Cubism, German Expressionism and CoBrA to Masaccio, Courbet and Alice Neel - Schutz places her figures in deliberately unsettling scenarios. Fluctuating between domestic, comedic and dark psychological registers, her paintings conjure a sense of surreal familiarity: of life refracted and re-ordered. In Home Birth, Schutz brings the full force of her artistic ancestry to bear upon a universal yet little-painted subject - creation, in its most primal form.

Coming to prominence in the early 2000s, Schutz is one of the foremost figures in contemporary painting. By the time of the present work, she had achieved international acclaim, hailed for her dark humour, pathos and erudite art historical imagination. Her paintings of this period, shown together under the title Waiting for the Barbarians, took on an increasingly provocative edge, exploring taboo themes of trauma and violence. Among them were her controversial Open Casket - which caused an uproar at the 2017 Whitney Biennial - her brutal Fight in an Elevator series and the painting Shooting on the Air, depicting the tragic on-air murders of two TV journalists in 2015. By choosing subversive contemporary subjects and filtering them through a range of art historical references, Schutz creates a sense of warped time. Pivotal moments - death, birth, assault - are suspended in dream-like states, caught between reality and fantasy. ‘I embrace the area between which the subject is composed and decomposing, formed and formless, inanimate and alive’, says the artist (D. Schutz, quoted at https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/dana_schutz.htm [accessed 27 May 2019]). The present work, with its vision of life on the brink of emergence, represents the ultimate expression of this belief.

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