Contemporary Painting

Julian Schnabel in Aspen

Aspen Art Museum- Nov 4, 2016-Feb 19, 2017 – Aspen, Colorado
Installation view at Aspen Art Museum of Julian Schnabel violet plate painting 2017, called "The Walk Home" done in 1985
Partial detail of "Spain, 1986" by Julian Schnabel
Gallery View of Julian Schnabel 'splate painting exhibition 2016-2017 at the Aspen Art Museum, of painting "Spain, 1986"


So I started to think that I would love to have two of these paintings because you have to be really far away to understand and appreciate them. And at that moment when you were appreciating the first painting, right behind you you’d want there to be another where you can pay attention to the detail, the texture of the plates, but you have to get away from it to see the image — they almost push you away.

The one I’m looking at here is called 86 – Spain – a huge painting that pushes you so far away — head and matador’s cape, feels all meaningful and symbolic.

The first is a salmon colored one where the closet shape is really obvious, the next has things that bisect the plate, the next is bigger forms of color. After this the closet shape has a top on it so you can see (green) called Divan, and a blue torso – who knows what that shape is, then a little tear, I had that feeling when I saw it the first time, and the head of Aristotle. When I first saw it, I said that piece needs the whole gallery, and then some.

Detail of plate painting (Aboriginal Painting) by Julian Schnabel at the Aspen Art Museum
Schnabel painting called "Aboriginal Painting" as seen at the Aspen Art Museum
Three Paintings (a)Circumnavigation the Sea of Shit, 1979 b)Divan c)Aboriginal by Julian Schnabel - Aspen Art Museum 2017

Plates are just a texture. Why is it always dishes? They are similar and so ordinary like rows of used stuff at the Goodwill, and this reuse of similar objects make them seem regular, like a brush stroke. Again its a different view from far away and from close up where you only see the details on the broken plats.

Many of these paintings are not about self expression, they are like the abstraction – the nothing depicted – of  Abstract Expressionism.  As looking at them, you can make up your own story from the little hint given in the title, like  Mud in Mudanza from 82, with its red dagger shape. This triptych is like a Clyfford Still – no representational shapes, the things that are not painted become a shape and form of their own, a negative undressed up element.Still’s forms are like this and usually very textural, too. We saw Schnabel talk in Denver in the fall when he had just finished curating a show of Still’s paintings at the Clyfford Still Museum.

The Still show had a similar feeling to this one: you enter and go in the unexpected direction – passing the usual entrance and flow in both of these museums and starting where you’d normally end.  This is a trick of showing, like pigLatin is a trick of a language and then the show is a little in your face. Schnabel chose the biggest Still I’ve ever seen as the first one you saw.  That’s a Schnabel curated exhibition – shouting at postmodernist – “hey, we’re paintings here, and you don’t have to look, but we’re not moving out of the way. ”  Maybe we needed to do that in the 1980s.  And I like the sublime nothingness of pre-postmodern modern painting.

But, then the  figurative can seem hokey: Voltaire from 1981 with it’s big chunk of crockery.  And certainly the self portrait and, yeah, a nude.

shadow of the texture on one of the plate painting series by Julian Schnabel at the Aspen Art Museum exhibition 2016- February 2017Detail of red female figure painting by Julian Schnabel at Aspen Art Museum

A female figure in the Plate Painting Series by Julian Schnabel as seen at the Aspen Art Museum Jan 2017, the Red Hills of Fez or Portrait of Jacqueline done in 1985

Red Hills of Fez or Portrait of Jacqueline makes you look because its a portrait.  Really, I prefer the close up detailed view of these.

Link to Art Aspen Museum’s show of Schnabel’s Plate Paintings.

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