70th Week
Oil and plaster on canvas
Dimensions: 335 x 295 cm
Reference: ACF0463
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Words have been one of the key elements in Julian Schnabel’s work over the years. The ones he employed in the late 1980s were particularly powerful, aggressive, committed and often hermetic, and their paradigm is to be found in the paintings from the ‘The Recognitions’ series, which he expanded for his exhibition at El Cuartel del Carmen, staged in Seville in October 1988, and in these works held by the Collection, which were produced just a few months later. The title of the series, ‘The Recognitions’, comes from a novel by the American writer William Gaddis; Schnabel took most of the inscriptions from the titles of the book’s chapters. The ones he wrote on these pieces—‘70th Week’, ‘Everyday Is the Beast with Iron Teeth and Ten Horns’, ‘Contro Dio’ and ‘Contro Mio’—do not come from the novel, but from the Old Testament, to be precise, the Book of Daniel. If, as critics have observed ‘The Recognitions’ reveals Schnabel’s relationship with literature, and through it his links with the narration of history and his opposition to the militaristic policies of the Reagan era, the pictures that make up this group are the final hecatomb, the absolute triumph of evil and its appearance on a charred earthly horizon. Schnabel has frequently made use of canvas—from lorries, boxing rings, and even (as in 1986) the curtains of a Kabuki theatre—as a support in his work. These works were done on pieces of canvas from army camp beds, sewn together until they reached the monumental dimensions of the paintings. The use of this material adds symbolic content—a tragic thread binds the existence of armies to the apocalypse that war entails for young soldiers—as well as affecting the physicality of the pieces, since the stitching structures the surface on which the words from the religious text are written. Although it does not refer specifically to theses pieces, but to the ‘The Recognitions’ series, Diego Cortez’s description from 1988 certainly applies: ‘They are the Scriptures painted, the law painted or “carved” on linen “tablets”. These dirty, greasy, stained canvases provide the nocturnal background for a language of signs that seems to have been painted by moonlight. The words are the image and his austere use of white paint projects a polar glimmer, a luminosity, an immobility, a durability that sunlight does not have.’

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