Making a connection in Chelsea - Art Collector

  Benjamin Degen, Drawing, Drinking, Sleeping, Dreaming, 2015. Oil on linen over panel, 72 x 108in. Courtesy: the artist and Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC

By Jess Holburn

The presser for Benjamin Degen’s second solo show at Susan Inglett Gallery is a verbatim email from the artist himself to his gallerist, explaining why he cannot provide a conventional artist statement for his show Where We Live:

“The thinking behind this new body of work is still new to me. I found that when I tried to put thought to paper, words escaped and the ideas only became more esoteric. The connections that seemed so clear to me in pictures became cryptic in words and I am only able to understand them through the process of painting.”

While speaking to Seurat’s Pointillism, Matisse’s figuration and Gauguin’s symbolism, Degen takes us further into a transcendent, subliminal realm. His sleeping muses occupy and unify the hyperactive spaces unto which they become inextricably, metaphysically bound.

There are some interesting links to be made in Degen’s work and that of Dana Schutz with her show Fight in an Elevator, exhibiting just a few blocks down at Petzel Gallery in Chelsea. Schutz portrays her figures in compressed environments where there is an imminent sense of combustion from the picture plane. Like Degen, Schutz abandons the compositional distinction between foreground and background, as such creating a zone of indiscernibility between exterior and interior, between public and private spheres. Both artists also negotiate narrative possibilities in painting and drawing from daily life, of which Schutz discussed back in a 2012 interview with Jarrett Earnest in Brooklyn Rail:

“To make a painting with people and things is not just “subjective whatever-ness.” It’s who we are and where we come from and can parallel the world, not just in a fictional or allegorical way, but also structurally. And paintings and images can feel so real! They can act as agents in the world.”

  Dana Schutz, Fight in an Elevator, installation view, 2015. Courtesy: the artist and Petzel Gallery, NYC

Embracing various influences such as Otto Dix, George Grosz, Robert Colescott and Judith Linhares, Schutz constructs her scenes by instigating a cause and effect action, often taking the viewer on humorous and interwoven tangents.

Schutz has been the subject of museum exhibitions both nationally and internationally. A survey exhibition of her work is currently on show at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal. Her solo museum shows include Miami Art Museum, Miami; the Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Italy; The Rose Museum, Massachusetts, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas. Her work is held in a myriad of collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Honart Museum, Tehran, Iran; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Degen’s work is also held in many public and private collections including the Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Nerman MoCA, Kansas; The Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York and the Brandolini Collection, Paris, among several others.

Benjamin Degen, Where We Live shows at Susan Inglett Gallery in Chelsea from 23 October to 5 December 2015

Dana Schutz, Fight in an Elevator shows at Petzel Gallery in Chelsea, from 10 September 10 24 October 2015

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