Julian Schnabel
USA, 1951
Julian Schnabel is surely the most outrageous embodiment of the role taken on and played by artists in general and painters in particular in the eighties, and one of the few who have lost none of their strength or intensity over the years. In fact, he has expanded his field of interests and in the past decade has shown more interest in film than painting, leaning towards a kind of figuration almost unknown until the nineties. Included by some specialists among the artists who led the “Return to Painting”, his work has been influenced by some of the leading names in American abstraction—Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Cy Twombly and Brice Marden—as well as early Pop Art— Robert Rauschenberg. He paid close attention to what was happening on the European scene, mainly works by Picasso, Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke, and his approach has been defined as lying somewhere between postmodern critique and the idealist “heroism” of the postwar avant-garde. A Promethean artist, in parallel to painting and sculpture he has also made forays into writing—he has written his autobiography, diaries and notes— as well as music and film. In 1996 he directed the film Basquiat on the famous New York graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died in 1988; and in 2000 he made the film Before Night Falls on the life of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas. Schnabel still has close personal and artistic ties to Spain. His famous plate paintings, painted against a background of broken plates, can be traced back to his stay in Barcelona in 1978, when he became familiar with Gaudí’s work. ‘The Recognitions Paintings’, one of his hardest-hitting and disturbing series, had a spectacular installation and was extended after being on show at the Cuartel del Carmen in Seville. In 2007 he directed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which won him Best Director Award at Cannes the same year, and a Golden Globe for Best Director and an Independent Spirit Award the following year. His latest exhibitions in Spain have been held at the Palacio de Velázquez in El Retiro park in Madrid, run by MNCARS, in 2004; at the Tabakalera space in San Sebastián, in 2007; and at the Centro Niemeyer in Avilés, in 2010-2011. His closing exhibition at the Galería Soledad Lorenzo was shared with Jorge Galindo, in 2012. Although the ”la Caixa” Collection of Contemporary Art only has works by Schnabel from the eighties, they are all significant pieces. Some of them use strange materials previously unknown in the art of painting, such as the sails in Don Quijote Meets Don Corleone (1983), which also has a powerful and sarcastic Spanish edge, and many mythographical aspects. The remaining three pieces, including the disturbing Contro Dio and Contro mio, as well as 70th Week, similar in style to the previous ones, are from 1989.
Mariano Navarro