A profusion of vibrant colour and fractured form, Kissing in the Dump (2004) exemplifies Dana Schutz’s glorious brand of painterly breakdown. Two figures – their bodies bold strokes of green and turquoise paint – embrace in a kaleidoscopic junkyard. The riot of garbage includes a chair, a vast frying pan and a discarded wreath; wires and mains plugs loop across the composition, which is flecked with dabs of thick impasto. To the right, a black binbag bursts open, deluging an unfortunate pigeon with rubbish. Aglow in a warm array of saturated gold, purple and green tones, the landfill becomes a splendid landscape, giving way to a spectacular blue sky. Schutz’s brushwork fragments objects and bodies into bold, geometric planes, structuring the work with crystalline painterly logic: her pictures, which pull narrative ideas from pop culture, art history, current events and the realms of private fantasy, have a sense of life being rebuilt before our eyes. Like many of her works, Kissing in the Dump depicts a subject likely never before tackled in paint, conjuring an escapist, humorous vision of romance among the wreckage.
‘Although the paintings themselves are not specifically narrative,’ Schutz has said, ‘I often invent imaginative systems and situations to generate information. These situations usually delineate a site where making is a necessity, audiences potentially don’t exist, objects transcend their function and reality is malleable’ (D. Schutz, quoted at https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/dana_schutz.htm). With its sense of objects repurposed or reimagined, the scrapheap in the present work is just such a site. Throwaway items take on a scenic grandeur as they accompany the dump-dwellers’ amorous encounter. Schutz’s paint has a sensual, metamorphic magic. Resourceful and omnivorous, her other human subjects have included people sneezing, giving birth, or eating their own faces: products of what David Salle has called ‘a kind of “what if–ness”’. If kissing in the dump isn’t a conventionally glamorous pursuit, Schutz’s formal audacity makes her painting of it into something wonderful. ‘These decidedly un-narcissistic images of humanity’, Salle writes, ‘are not bleak or overly critical; they’re not particularly shocking or cruel. 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).