|Julian Schnabel: Sperone Westwater
Art News, p.136.
1 March 2008
Julian Schnabel blasted in a new direction with this exciting show of color drawing, in which he ironically juxtaposes two kinds of abstraction maps and gesture. He paints, or draws, atop the maps, which are in the most literal sense abstractions, because they are schematic reductions of the earth. They draw away from reality, flattening the earths curved suface, while at the same time they serve as guides that enable us to get from one place to another. Clear sailing may mean charting a new course, an idea Schnabel incorporates by using maps stamped Not for Navigation.
What the artist inscribes on these maps only serves to render the site-specific-or, in this case, specific-site nature of maps ridiculous. His application of hasty swaths of color effectively cancels out the mapmakers precision and introduces a note of expressionistic spontaneity, even passion.
Emotion trumps exactitude and specificity in these works the way it did when Schnabel used a portrait he found in a junk shop as the point of departure for his Big Girl series. In those works, a stripe of paint spreading across the female face rendered abstract the nominally representational character of portraiture. At the same time, it reminded viewers that painting is not photography, and that all portraiture-or representation, for that matter-bears within it the seeds of abstraction.
The drawings here established a dynamic tension between the control a map imposes on nature and the Abstract Expressionists experiments with translating ardor into color and texture.
The large number of works-34-affirmed Schnabels commitment to painting. Just when we thought he might be moving lock, stock, and barrel into film directing, he dazzled us with these witty, gorgeous investigations.
- Alfred Mac Adam