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Dana Schutz’s New Paintings Just Might Be Her Best

Dana Schutz’s current show at Petzel Gallery is her best in New York in a while, maybe ever.

She has loaded up her brush again, thickening her paint, and has minimized her settings. Gone are the thin surfaces and sharp-edged shapes that could make her recent works feel brittle and too cartoony. Her protagonists have gained weight and substance, and appear to be isolated in bleak empty spaces that feel mythic or postapocalyptic. Several scenes are set on large lonely rocks like those loved by Homeric poets and Symbolist painters.

With her paint surfaces sometimes verging on low relief, it is unsurprising that, for the first time, Ms. Schutz is also exhibiting sculpture, a frequent subject in her paintings: five bronzes of her characteristically gnarly figures whose crazed textures amaze and will surely feed back into her painting...

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