Julian Schnabel

Julian Schnabel

If the responsibility of the artist is the challenging of preconceived notions, of ideological fixtures, of received wisdom, then Julian Schnabel must be regarded as posing (at minimum) a double-threat to such things. As both Neo-expressionist painter and occasional filmmaker, Julian Schnabel has inhabited, for four decades’ time, an artistic career as diverse as it is inventive and memorable.

As ambitious in spirit as they are reflective in theme, Julian’s paintings, films, and other works have often sought to defy convention, even by the standards of similarly defiant artists. Paint, when applied to a surface with patient skill and inspired vision, is capable of conveying profound meaning by way of its content, of channeling remote eras and distant lands, of bringing to life that which is otherwise wholly inanimate.

For Julian Schnabel, however, the canvas itself would become more than the mere foundation upon which such conveyance, channeling, and life-bringing might spring forth. Instead, the very canvas itself would become central to the vision by which his every brush stroke was governed, as his aptly-named “plate paintings” would come to demonstrate. Fragmented ceramic, consciously arranged in such ways as to accentuate said fragmentation, provided the surface upon which Julian’s most celebrated of paintings would take on their inventive and defiant lives. Artistic adventurism of this sort speaks of a perhaps unusual life story on part of its progenitor.

Originally a son of New York City (Brooklyn, specifically), NY, Julian would eventually come to know southern Texas as home during his adolescent years. This rather severe contrast between the place of his early-childhood and that of his developmental years would seem to have provided young Julian with a sense of perspective which took root in what was already a nascent artistic mind.

Directing his burgeoning creative energies into a formal education at the University of Houston, where his earning of an undergraduate degree in the fine arts would be followed by a further artistic development at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, Julian allowed for the latter step to facilitate his perhaps inevitable return to New York. The homecoming was followed almost immediately by a professional debut of sorts, itself well-aligned with Neo-expressionism’s ascendance within American and European culture.

Furthering the sense of perspective within Julian’s construct-aware and creatively-potent mind was a penchant for European travel which exposed the budding visionary to still greater cultural complexity and artistic precedent. Where university studies and Modern Art immersion had provided a degree of form (or at least direction) to Julian’s worthy sense of visual poetry, the Old World’s creative souls would imprint upon the young man’s mind still more in terms of differing forms and means by which to capture that which one’s inspiration might suggest is worthy of expression.

Subsequent years and decades would reveal to connoisseurs and laypersons alike the extent to which this multifaceted period of formal and autodidactic training had conditioned Julian’s artistically-charged mind, awakening his muse in the process.

Julian Schnabel Artwork

Worthy films such as Before Night Falls (2000) and the highly-praised Basquiat (1996) populate the annals of cinema history courtesy of Julian Schnabel, who directed both and coaxed an Academy Award-nominated performance out of a fairly unknown Javier Bardem in the former. But, while these films and several others helmed by Julian speak of a brilliant and dynamic mind, it is his paintings for which he will arguably be most remembered.

Julian Schnabel artwork continues to enjoy a coveted place in the realm of gifted painters, and in large part for the extent to which the man has brazenly pushed boundaries and experimented with the medium’s perceived limits. To excel in a given profession is commendable in its own right; to do so almost entirely on one’s own terms is to enjoy what so few will ever comprehend. Julian has certainly earned for himself a sort of perpetual renegade credential, even if the establishment tends to beckon at times.

Though the painting works for which Julian is most famous were brought to life upon ceramic fragments, a number of the artist’s edition prints are deserving of consideration by those for whom inspired art work is an intrinsic necessity. Julian Schnabel artwork tends to inspire in a cross-medium manner, regardless of the surfaces upon which it is showcased.

Whether on plate fragments, strips of film, or on traditional canvas, Julian’s vision is difficult to diminish. A print is no less a suitable form than any other.