FOUR WORKS, FOUR YEARS, EIGHT WEEKS: Julian Schnabel Returns to the East Village

A larger than life figure, Julian Schnabel personifies - and slyly critiques - what it is to be a successful contemporary artist. He has achieved art world stature and mainstream celebrity through his art, his films, his commentary, and his well-documented lifestyle. Nevertheless, even cognoscenti are often unable to immediately conjure mental images that speak to the full scope and depth of Schnabel's work, with the exception perhaps of his figurative paintings incorporating broken crockery. While this myopia could be attributed in part to the artist's refusal to adhere to a single signature style throughout his four decade-long practice, public recognition of Schabel's numerous contributions to painting also have been obfuscated by his stardom.

With this contradiction in mind, Oko will present Julian Schnabel 1978-81, a pointed study of Schnabel's early work via a rotating exhibition of four emblematic paintings made in a period of explosive change for both the artist and the New York City art scene. Selected by independent curator Alison Gingeras, the four paintings will be shown sequentially beginning February 5, 2013. Each work will be presented individually in Oko's space for a two-week period in order to spotlight the artist's mastery and the development of his ideas and techniques in a seminal moment. The exhibition sheds light on the fearless experimentation of Schnabel's early career and suggests the profound influence he has had and continues to exert upon other artists.

While the four paintings in Julian Schnabel 1978 - 1981 have been widely reproduced in books and included in Schnabel's museum exhibitions outside the United States, they have been exhibited only rarely in New York City. Each one represents a distinct body of work or material gesture that Schnabel initiated during a time of breakthrough in his practice. Exuberant experimentation is a common denominator between the modeled wax surfaces of the veiled self-portrait "St. Sebastian" (1979); Schnabel's very first abstracted mosaic of ceramic shards and sculptural picture planes in "The Patient and The Doctors" (1978); the use of a soiled drop cloth as a pictorial ground in "The Mutant King" (1981); and the layering of fabric in the monochromatic "Blue Abstract Painting on Velvet" (1980).




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by Barry Kostrinsky