Julian Schnabel's Large Painting Occupy Legion of Honor's Open-Air Yard

April 14, 2018

The beginning of the 80s in the art world is marked by the domination of neo-expressionism. This phenomenon, often described as the Transavantgarde or the New Fauves, swept the scene internationally. Differing from the conceptual art which rejected any conventional means of expression, it has brought the focus back to painting.

One of the representatives of this style on American soil was painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, best known for his large-scale figurative and abstract paintings suffocated with dense palette and different materials.

Under the title Julian Schnabel: Symbols of Actual Life his intense production consisting of old and new works is going to be finally displayed after thirty years at The Legion of Honor, a museum collection, and building which belongs to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Untitled, 2016
Julian Schnabel - Untitled, 2016. Gesso on found fabric, 130.5 x 153 in. (331.5 x 388.6 cm). Photo by Tom Powel Imaging, copyright Julian Schnabel Studio

Continuity and Quality of Schnabel's Practice

The immense significance of the work of Julian Schnabel can be traced to his participation at the Venice Biennale in 1980, all along with another two famous painters Anselm Kiefer and George Baselitz. The way he treats the surface of the canvas by constructing it upside down with various pictorial elements suggests huge craftsmanship, but strong conceptual solutions as well.

As a matter of fact, this principle of multi-layering shows how complex his narratives are, interwoven out of various linguistic references and inner psychological processes. The employment of Schnabel’s body is apparent due to the expressive and rather intense gestures, so his works possess a certain dose of performance reminiscent of gestural abstraction.

Jane Birkin (Egypt), 1990
Julian Schnabel - Jane Birkin (Egypt), 1990. Oil, gesso on sailcloth, 204.25 x 228.5 in. (518.8 x 580.4 cm). Photo by Tom Powel Imaging, copyright Julian Schnabel Studio

The Combination of Old and New

The whole space of the Legion of Honor will be occupied, both outside and inside, by Schnabel's work. Namely, at the courtyard, a series of new works are going to be shown, while three series of older pieces from previous phases will be exhibited inside the galleries.

In the exterior, six huge paintings will actually create some sort of site-specific or installation which is going to be fully exposed to weather conditions until the closing of the exhibition. On the other hand, the eight works in the interior will further examine the question of lasting and coherence which seems to be the central idea behind the concept. In regards to this conclusion is the statement of the artists who said that:

The paintings in the exhibition epitomize much of what are the essential characteristics of the smallest and most nascent proposals of how imagery, drawing and material function in my painting. This is as far as I can take painting — this week.

Untitled, 2017
Julian Schnabel - Untitled, 2017. Gesso on found fabric, 288 x 288 in. (731.5 x 731.5 cm). Photo by Tom Powel Imaging, copyright Julian Schnabel Studio

Julian Schnabel at The Legion of Honor

Symbols of Actual Life is curated by Max Hollein, director of FAMSF, and it will be on display at The Legion of Honor in San Francisco from 21 April until 5 August 2018.

The curiosity is that this particular exhibition is part of completely new contemporary art program which the institution has recently launched. It is worth mentioning that thanks to the efforts of Vito Schnabel, Gallery Blum & Poe, Almine Rech Gallery and other partners, the public will have a chance to enjoy the artworks of one of the greatest living painter.

Featured images: Julian Schnabel’s Large Paintings Occupy Legion of Honor’s Open-Air Yard. All images courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; View of Julian Schnabel's studio. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Julian Schnabel's studio in Montauk, 2017. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging, copyright Julian Schnabel Studio

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