Dana Schutz plots space more tightly than she used to. Her older works tweaked realist illusionism by clumping volume in one corner while letting loose in another, but her new body of work abounds in rigid angles and geometric patterning. She’s painted pressurized environments that push at her canvasses’ surfaces and sides. In a series of charcoal portraits, the caricatured figures’ gazes and features are pressed eagerly, intensely outward. Fight in an Elevator (2015), which lends its title to the exhibition, is a jumble of limbs and smeared, stretched faces, glimpsed through the lines of half-open doors. The mise-en-scène seems to dramatize the act of painting itself, of paint gone wild in the plane set by the stretcher. The result distances the space of the viewer from the space of the work; Schutz’s paintings are obsessive yet aloof, beguiling but uninviting. You’re more of a voyeur than a viewer. The effect climaxes in As Normal as Possible (2015), where you’re staring down a kid’s dilated and reddened eyes under a flashlight’s broad beam, as a police cruiser’s lights blink behind him—you’re a cop.
Pictured: Dana Schutz: Swiss Family Traveling, 2015, oil on canvas, 84 by 88 inches. Courtesy the artist and Petzel, New York.