Deus Ex Machina
Contemporary Fine Arts is pleased to present its first solo show of paintings by Julian Schnabel (*1951). It is the artist’s first major solo exhibition in Germany since his sensational museum retrospective at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt 2004.
Julian Schnabel began making a name for himself in the early 1980s, in particular with his “plate paintings”, works in which broken pieces of plate were glued to the surface to create a fragmenting effect. This fragmentation, as Robert Fleck writes in the exhibition catalogue, “has since developed into a constantly reinvented conjunction of generously applied materials, materials often alien to painting, and bold marriages of pictures and surfaces.” The figurative or abstract found pictures onto which he paints are not neutral, virgin surfaces, but backgrounds with stories of their own.
The synthetic backgrounds for the new work presented in the show are mostly enlarged snapshots, photographs of images such as Indian deities or of historic paintings, taken by the artist himself. Schnabel uses these materials and their history as reference points, as “fragments of the world”. “Using existing material adds an ethnographic aspect to the work,” the artist explains, “in that it introduces a real place and a real time to the aesthetic reality.” His new pictures thus meet the digital world’s image-making process head on, and provide it with a fresh counterpoint. As Robert Fleck observes: “He grasps the media image by its horns and, with his painterly modifications, brings it to its knees.”
Symbols, objects and words also feature in Julian Schnabel’s pictures, heightening the sense of incompatible elements colliding. They too had a prior existence, these unknown and famous names, these often entirely out-of-context half-sentences and sequences of words, an existence that brings the observer’s own emotions, connotations and memories into play. The tension of this collision is set off by the calming effect of the paint which, smothers with a remarkable dedication to surface coverage, lends the work an expansiveness and inner composure.
Julian Schnabel is a painter living and working in New York and the director of films such as Basquiat (1996), Before Night Falls (2000) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with an introduction by Robert Fleck.