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Dana Schutz, “Sleeping Head”, 2024

Dana Schutz

Sleeping Head (2024)

The vigorously colored world of Dana Schutz is often populated by surreal and grotesquely contorted figures. They convey a sense of emotional depth while seeming to have sprung from a vivid fever dream. Relatedly, sleep appears to be a recurring theme in Schutz’s editions for TEXTE ZUR KUNST: “Sleepwalker” (2016) approaches the spectator with outstretched hands. Now, with “Sleeping Head,” we hover above the depicted scene, witnessing a humanoid figure in peaceful slumber. The appearance of calmness in the face is juxtaposed with the rest of what is visible to us: wires or electrical cords are attached to the back of an almost elliptical head. Are we peeking in on an alien? Is this a spidery-limbed cyborg with button switches on its head? “Sleeping Head,” the painting this eponymous print references, was shown in “Jupiter’s Lottery,” Schutz’s first solo exhibition at David Zwirner. Depicted in that show’s other paintings seem to be the adult relatives of “Sleeping Head,” roaming in lively jostling klatches. They sport blown-up, distorted heads with comically exaggerated facial features, reminiscent of the papier-mâché masks worn at a southern German “Narrenumzug” (parade of fools). This association seems especially fitting, since Schutz’s exhibition title references an Aesop fable that recounts how Jupiter established a lottery for humankind, with wisdom as the top prize. When one of his daughters won, the god appeased the angry crowd by presenting them with folly in place of understanding. But in foolery, Schutz seems to suggest, there may also lie a certain levity, apparent in the blithe tranquility of “Sleeping Head.”