Julian Schnabel
Year, Birthplace 1951, United States
Julian Schnabel's family moved to Brownsville, Texas in 1965. As a teenager, he sang in a rock band and recorded his first album. He studied at the Houston University in Texas between 1969 and 1973, graduating with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts in 1973. After completing his studies, he moved to New York and attended the independent studies programme run by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1973/1974. He then decided to become a painter, settling in his hometown and working as a taxi driver and cook until 1976. His works were shown for the first time in 1975 at an exhibition held at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston. At this time he made several trips to Europe. In Barcelona, he became very interested in Antoni Gaudí's use of broken ceramics in Güell Park. Reacting against the minimalist and conceptual art of the 1970s, and creating consistent works, he argued for a return to painting with figurative and narrative themes. This painting would come to be known as 'Bad Painting', an expression that was coined in 1978. It represented a critique of the previous generation's good taste, considered to be excessively puritan, and a desire to rehabilitate a subculture. The artist's large formats transmit a feeling of vitality and the distortion of the shapes and the violence of the colours are a reflection of the world. Along with Julian Schnabel, the other followers of Bad Painting – David Salle, Robert Longo and Malcolm Morley – and the graffiti artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat – would trigger the indignation of bien-pensant critics. Julian Schnabel's first solo exhibition in New York was held in 1979 at the Mary Boone Gallery, making him a key figure in the New York neo-expressionist movement. His participation in the Venice Biennale in 1980 made him internationally famous and his presence the following year at the Royal Academy of Arts’ exhibition in London – A New Spirit in Painting – linked him to the Italian transavantgarde, German neo-fauvism and free figuration in France. Helped by a strong personality, the artist established his position. From 1982 onwards, he participated in various exhibitions around the world. In the early 1980s, reprising the idea of rubbish and decay but without resorting to the glacial and decorative strategy employed by pop art, he devoted himself to sticking shards of plates onto wooden panels and partially covering them with bright colours. His formats are often monumental, covering entire walls. His expressionism is violent in both content and form. He deliberately shocked the spectator not only with his techniques but also which his chosen themes, which included Christ on the cross and Saint Francis in ecstasy. At a later date he returned to a more traditional, almost minimalist, form of expressionism, always tackling the theme of religion (Holy Night, The Incantation, Veronica’s Veil, and the series Recognitions and Stations of the Cross, of 1987), working on velvet, tarred canvas or leather. At the age of thirty-six, Schnabel published an autobiography entitled CVJ: Nicknames of Maitre D’s and Other Excerpts from Life (1987, Random House). He returned to music with the album Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud (1995, Polygram Records). In 2002, he was the artistic director of the album By the Way by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Having become established in the art world, Schnabel turned to cinema. The start of his career in this medium was directly linked to his own artistic career: in 1996, he wrote and directed Basquiat, a tribute to his friend the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, whom he met in 1981 and who died prematurely in 1988. His next film, Before Night Falls, on which he worked as screenwriter, director and producer, is based on the life of the Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, who, after suffering disappointments, exile and detention, ended up committing suicide in 1990. In 2007, he adapted the French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby’s novel Le Scaphandre et le papillon [The Diving Bell and the Butterfly] for the cinema. The film won awards at both the Cannes Film Festival and at the Golden Globes. In his films, Julian Schnabel perpetuates the memory of those who have been destroyed by personal traumas. He confirmed his interest in this theme in 2007 when he directed Berlin, a documentary revealing the other side of legendary rock musician Lou Reed’s tour based on the 1973 concept album of the same name. This great figure in the world of contemporary art, who is currently represented by the most important museums in the world, has never ceased to work as a painter. Favouring the relationship with the exhibition space, and choosing the theme as a consequence of it, he adapts his work to each exhibition, as he did in 2007 at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome and at the Rotonda della Besana in Milan, the Schloss Derneburg in Holle, Germany, and the Tabacalera Donostia in San Sebastian, Spain. After the World Art Museum in Beijing, he exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, where he showed a work based on the last day of Christ using x-rays found in Berck, France during the filming of Le Scaphandre et le papillon. AC