Dressed for Success; Artist Julian Schnabel Is Having Such a Spectacular Year, He Can Wear Purple Pajamas If He Wants To

By Levitin, Michael | Newsweek International, August 20, 2007 | Go to article overview

Dressed for Success; Artist Julian Schnabel Is Having Such a Spectacular Year, He Can Wear Purple Pajamas If He Wants To


Levitin, Michael, Newsweek International


Byline: Michael Levitin

When you're an artist as versatile and productive as Julian Schnabel, you can wear what you want to an opening--even purple pajamas, as he did for the recent premiere of his 25-year retrospective in San SebastiAn, Spain. The New York-born painter, sculptor and filmmaker is having quite a year: in addition to the Basque exhibit, earlier in 2007 he exhibited at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome, and he is currently the subject of shows in Milan and Holle, Germany. He won best director at the Cannes Film Festival in May for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," about a man who suffers a stroke and can communicate only by blinking his left eye, and his film about Lou Reed's cult-classic album "Berlin" premieres at the Venice Film Festival next month. Later this fall, he will have exhibitions opening in Hong Kong, China and South Korea. But when you see the bushy-bearded, barrel-chested artist shuffling around in torn red canvas shoes, his sunglasses pushed back on his leonine head, it's hard to imagine success looking more relaxed. "I have other clothes," he says, scanning the crowd of elegantly attired guests who've shown up to see his work. "I just put these on earlier, and I didn't get to go home. I've been a little busy."

No kidding. Just a few weeks ago Schnabel, 55, was applying the final brush strokes to several of the 70 works now on display in "Summer: Paintings and Sculptures 1982-2007," which runs through Oct. 21 and represents the full range of his oeuvre. Ever since he first shocked viewers back in the late 1970s with his violently expressive paintings on broken plates, he has refused to fix on any single style; as he says, his paintings, "like poetry, like a diary, tell my life story." Indeed, the dark and often ironic works in "Summer" jump around from figurative to photographic to abstract. Many of his works fuse language and crude textures with images, and employ a strong sense of balance. Schnabel has built a career on incorporating old materials and objects into his work, including army canvas ("Painting Without Bingo"), jumbo-enlarged postcards ("Flaubert's Letters to His Mother") and pieces of boxing-ring floors ("Edge of Victory"). "The idea is to invent new ways of painting," says Schnabel, whom critics have termed a leading "neo-expressionist," along with Anselm Kiefer, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi and Miquel Barcelo. "I want to change the form of what I'm seeing."

Like the artist himself, some of the canvases in the show seem to be larger than life, stretching more than six meters tall. …

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