February 11, 2008

Yau on Schnabel: Pedestrian at best

In The Brooklyn Rail, John Yau compares Julian Schnabel to Jean Cocteau, another self-agrandizing artist who was a better filmmaker than a painter. "What aberration allows bad artists to make terrific films? Why is it that the clich├ęs that make for turgid art become acceptable and engaging when they are translated into celluloid?...In his exhibition of Navigation Drawings—some are already billing it a triumphant reentry into the art world—Schnabel recycles a strategy that has previously served him well, but which underscores the essential weakness of his work; he begins with a compelling but distracting found surface (he has previously used animal skins, velvet, corduroy, broken crockery, Kabuki theater backdrops) over which he applies the paint. The found surfaces help hide the fact that Schnabel, who likes to make big, sloppy strokes, has no feel for paint’s possibilities. It’s as if he is wearing boxing gloves and carrying a hammer when he picks up the brush. Paint on canvas and drawing on paper, not to mention conceptual rigor and curiosity, are not among this artist’s strong suits. He is good at other things, but not the basics....The play between the brushstrokes (figure) and maps (ground) is pedestrian at best, lazy at its worst. The marks were made by someone who is easily satisfied by everything he does. And that has been the problem since he began believing that he was the closet thing to Picasso, and many critics and curators were all-too-quick to agree with his inflated self-estimation." Read more.

"Julian Schnabel: Navigation Drawings," Sperone Westwater, New York, NY. Through Feb. 16.

Related posts:
Fathoming the depths of Schnabelia

Rave reviews for Schnabel's new film in which a paralysed man dictates a memoir with his eyeball

Heart as Arena says leave Julian alone!
Julian Schnabel nominated for Gucci filmmaking award

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