The Hall Art Foundation presents an exhibition by American artist Julian Schnabel held at its Schloss Derneburg location.
Considered to be a figurehead in the resurgence of painting in the late 1970’s, Schnabel continues to create gestural and highly charged work that appropriates ancient and modern literary and cultural references, while conflating the boundary between figuration and abstraction. This exhibition brings together 7 large-scale bronze sculptures installed both indoors and on the adjacent property, together with a series of monumental paintings on found tarpaulin.
In the five part series, Untitled (Treatise on Melancholia) (1989), Schnabel paints on olive green tarpaulin, a material traditionally used by the military, and first sourced by the artist in 1985 while he worked in Mexico. Bold, gesture-driven applications of vinyl paint (gesso) are juxtaposed against horizontal bands of heavy and opaque fabric that have been sewn together. With no discernible foreground or background, the intersecting white shapes that might otherwise suggest a landscape or still life, are abstracted.
Untitled (Treatise on Melancholia) (1989), presents a solitary abstract form floating within an undefined field. The found tarpaulin is marked with various stains and indentations, traces from its earlier life in Mexico. Schnabel’s untraditional use of vinyl paint, a technique first employed in the late 1980’s, highlights the materiality and gesture-driven quality of his work.
In 1979, Schnabel began to incorporate bronze elements in his paintings, and later progressed to monumental sculpture in the early 1980’s. Idiota (1988) was first assembled in situ at the Cuartel de Carmen in Seville, Spain, a monastery subsequently occupied by the military and abandoned in 1978. The cruciform (or battle standard) was built entirely from material collected from the barracks, later declared by the artist as the “home” of his tarp paintings. A large piece of bronze cast from a slab of wood acts as the standard and displays the title, “IDIOTA” above a series of Spanish names (“Carmen”, “Romero”, “Manuel Benitez,” etc.) inscribed on the cross and bronze flags that hang from each arm. The work signifies Schnabel’s affinity for linguistic reference, and for the formal and pictorial quality of the letters themselves.
Several bronze sculptures include autobiographical or literary references. MacBeth (1989) is a somber figure cast from a weathered wooden log, bluntly carved into a sulking head and torso and placed on a planked platform. The title of the sculpture, Si Tacuisses (1990) is a shortening of the Latin phrase that continues “…philosophus mansisses” (If you had kept your silence / you would have stayed a philosopher). The bronze is cast from the stump of a palm tree, a common icon in Schnabel’s work, realistically rendered with tiny roots on its base and upward growing branches at its peak. A speech bubble assigns an anthropomorphic quality to the work. The declaration, “I went to Tangiers and had dinner with Paul Bowles”, references the American expatriate composer and author, then living in Morocco.
Born in New York City in 1951, Julian Schnabel received a BFA from the University of Houston, Texas in 1973, and later participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York. Schnabel’s work has been exhibited worldwide. Major solo exhibitions have been held at Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (1981); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1982); Tate Gallery, London (1982); Whitechapel Gallery, London (1986); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1987); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1987); Cuartel de Carmen, Seville (1988); Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich (1989); Fundacio Joan Miró, Barcelona (1995); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2004); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2004); Palazzo Venezia, Rome (2007); Tabacalera, San Sebastian (2007), Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (2010); Museo Correr, Venice (2011); NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2014); and Aspen Art Museum, Aspen (2016). In 2007, Julian Schnabel: Versions of Chuck and Other Works, was presented at Schloss Derneburg. Schnabel’s work can be found in permanent museum collections around the world. In addition to his pioneering work in painting and sculpture, Schnabel is also an award-winning filmmaker, having written and directed the feature films Basquiat (1996), Before Night Falls (2000), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse (2007) and Miral (2010). Schnabel currently lives and works in New York City and Montauk, Long Island.Courtesy Hall Art Foundation. Photo: Stefan Neuenhausen