Julian Schnabel & Pablo Picasso

Julian Schnabel, with Tina, in his studio in Brooklyn.

Julian Schnabel, known for films like Basquiat and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, will be discussing his own art and Picasso’s, both currently on display at the museum. Describing himself as primarily a painter, Schnabel has followed Picasso’s example, establishing himself in the art world by intelligently reinterpreting the old masters and confidently asserting his artistic abilities. The artist is one of the most famous artists from the 1980’s and part of a movement classified as Neo-Expressionism. This style embodies the decade with its enormous scale and theatricality. Schnabel has gained a reputation for his larger than life personality and elusive aesthetic. He paints the way that the brain works—with layers, ambiguity, emotion and memory.

Currently on display in the exhibition Apocalypse: Monumental Paintings of the 1980s, Schnabel’s Understanding Self-Hate serves as a fantastic example of his work. The piece, painted on velvet, is emotional and cryptic. A friend, walking through the exhibition with me, stepped away from it to take in the entire piece. Then, as she began to notice the faces, layered upon one another, she pointed them out and animatedly compared them to celebrities, friends, and other characters. Stepping closer, she noticed that it was made of velvet, and reached out to touch it. Stopping herself, she turned back to me to say “I don’t understand modern art,” but her interaction with the piece demonstrates Schnabel’s ability to engage each viewer in a different way through texture, memory and scale. The painting pushes you away, pulls you closer and draws upon your knowledge to create meaning.

Schnabel’s diverse mediums and emotional range parallel Pablo Picasso’s and these connections, combined with Schnabel’s penchant for the dramatic, make his lecture and his unique take on Picasso an event you won’t want to miss.

-Laura Keller, Curatorial Intern, Modern & Contemporary Art