Over fifty paintings by Julian Schnabel (New York, United States, 1951) make up the exhibition at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía dedicated to this creative American. A Czech immigrant father and a mother from New York, in 1965 the Schnabel family moves to Brownsville (Texas, United States), a town near the Mexican border. His life as a teenager in this city is replete with violence, weapons and drugs, which strongly shapes the artist’s character and psychology. After studying Fine Arts at the University of Houston, Schnabel returns to New York in 1973 and studies a “critique and curator of museums” programme at the Whitney Museum. During 1976 he spends several months in Europe, visiting Italy and the work of Giotto, Fra Angelico and Caravaggio.
Towards the late seventies, Schnabel begins to use pieces of plates attached to supports which placed him in the middle of a heated debate about the purpose and future of painting. Painting that way again, after the minimalist and conceptual trends of previous decades, was taken as a provocation. It seems that this idea of making a mosaic arose from a visit to Barcelona and, specifically, Antoni Gaudí’s architecture. The artist has sometimes expressed his interest in eliminating the the bi-dimensionality of the canvas, as well as his intention to break the surface of the pieces.
This exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is a retrospective of Schnabel’s series created between 1978 and 2003. In his canvasses that are more than four metres high he mixes techniques, objects, words and materials, with results that are between figuration and abstraction. In his paintings Schnabel includes religious and private mythical images and signs, associated with his individual history and the history of art and culture. His works retain a remarkable oscillation between abstraction and figuration, between passages of frantic and serene painting, with which he represents a new subjectivity where the conceptual thrust integrates with the pleasure of manual tasks, using all instruments of expression and all languages available.
Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (January 29 - April 25, 2004); Mostra d'Oltremare, Naples (21 November, 2004 - 16 January, 2005)