Review: Julian Schnabel at Pace, London

Posted by D.R.A.W in Blog

June 23rd 2018

For those who missed it, Pace has recently showcased a solo exhibition by Julian Schnabel, his eighteenth since he joined Pace in 1984 (re-joining in 2016 after a 14 year hiatus at Gagosian) and the first in the gallery’s London space. It coincided with the reopening of the Royal Academy (with which they share a building and of which Schnabel is a Honorary Academician), running for just over a month until June 22.

Its long title, The re-use of 2017 by 2018. The re-use of Christmas, birthdays. The re-use of a joke. The re-use of air and water, related to the actual process behind the works on display (enlarged scenes from twelve calendar prints made in the 18th Century by Royal Academy artists William Hamilton and Francesco Bartolozzi, printed on polyester and painted over using thick dark green paint) clashes somehow with the brevity of the show.

As much as we constantly re-use materials and objects (activity mastered by Schnabel, who has been painting over things like smashed crockery and glass, enlarged prints taken from 19th century wallpaper or his own silk pajamas, which he used to walk about New York City in the Eighties), we also churn out shows in art galleries at light speed (no, Pace isn’t by far the only culprit for this practice).

This exhibition encapsulates well the main discourse carried out by Schnabel, an incredibly prolific painter (and film director) who has been tiptoeing between abstraction and figuration throughout his career, spanning over 40 years. Despite having been the object of negative critical attention in previous years, with New York Times critic Roberta Smith lamenting many of his works “have not held up particularly well” and frequently labelled as the ‘artist with a big ego producing merely fashionable paintings’, we can say that this show has been important to reinforce an ongoing discourse of someone who, like it or not, has gained a chapter in the History of Art.

Will we be re-using his lesson in years to come?