Dana Schutz flirts with the ugly, considers our condition, pictures the unimaginable, and in general uncovers what some might prefer left under a rock in her brushy paintings of Jeffrey Dahmer–like cleaver-wielding Amazons, blindfolded troubadours in business suits, and other less-easy-to-identify folks and scenes. At LFL Gallery in New York in 2002, in her first solo exhibition, “Frank from Observation,” she showed a group of 12 paintings about a fictional character, Frank, whom she imagined as being the last man on earth — and whom she coyly described in the show’s press release as being painted “from observation.” In those works, we see imaginative imagery that appears to arise out of the union between fierce brushstrokes and color so visceral it takes on a life of its own: a bright orange Frank nude in the water; a pinker Frank reclining on the beach; a dark, seriously post–Van Gogh Frank contemplating stars at night. Schutz continues to paint up an impressive storm, and her work comes to Brandeis’s Rose Art Museum in “Dana Schutz: Works from 2002–2006,” which opens on January 19 with more than two dozen works from the last four years plus some new work done for this exhibition.
Also opening on January 19 at the Rose, “Oliver Herring: On the Cusp,” an installation of the artist’s recent photo-sculptures. For this body of work, Herring photographed volunteer models from every conceivable angle over a long period of time, then cut and pasted the photos onto lifesize three-dimensional forms of his subjects. An intense exercise in intimacy, the resultant portraits offer an almost taboo opportunity to stare really hard at people you don’t know. The photographic aspect of the sculpture takes Duane Hanson’s inroads into 3-D trompe l’œil one step farther, as does Herring’s sensitivity to and connection with his models. Herring, who also works in media from video to knitting, has an acute feel for the figure, and he puts a new twist on its portrayal.
Perception, representation, beauty . . . artists working in the early days of the 20th century in Europe challenged established definitions of these topics through innovations and explorations in painting, sculpture, and the graphic arts, creating what we now know as Modern. “Degas to Picasso: Modern Masters,” which opens January 18 at the Museum of Fine Arts, has more than 280 works from the MFA’s collection by the famed likes of Degas, Gauguin, Rodin, Giacometti, and Picasso, not to mention Miró, Dalí, Magritte, and Matta, and American ex-pats Calder and Man Ray. Beginning with Degas’s experimental works, which he made late in his career, and punctuated throughout by Picasso’s continuous shifts in style and media, the show, which includes newly acquired as well as rarely seen works, gives a panoramic view of Modernism.
“DANA SCHUTZ: WORKS FROM 2002–2006” and “OLIVER HERRING: ON THE CUSP” @ Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, 415 South St, Waltham | Jan 19–April 9 [Schutz] and Jan 19–March 4 [Herring] | 781.736.3434 orwww.brandeis.edu/rose| “DEGAS TO PICASSO: MODERN MASTERS” @ Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | Jan 18–July 23 | 617.267.9300 orwww.mfa.org