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  • Writer's pictureElvira m. Dayel

'Julian Schnabel Breathing Painting,' Legion of Honor, SF

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

Los Angeles artist Julian Schnabel's huuuge, colossal as they call it, stretchers with used fabric with gesso acting as paint circumvent the Legion of Honor courtyard. These "paintings" are so large, they are the height of the architrave (that's the top portion of the column in the Greek style classical building.) "Paintings" are exposed to elements, they are tied with very strong nylon belts to the courtyard columns. These "paintings" are not revered by the artist, they are not meant to be treated with adoration. In fact, out of the six displayed originally I only saw four. Two of the pieces were severely damaged by the San Francisco coastal winds and had to be taken down for repair.

exterior installation:

The best part of the exhibit & my favourite part is of course a discovery. Every art exhibition has a mystery hidden within the work lending itself to be discovered by me. And I was happy to find the paintings "breathing." Installed outside, there is nothing safe from the gusty San Francisco winds. The shear size of the paintings, their stretched fabric was breathing! Watch the video.

Pick an entry once inside. The exhibition is a combined 2-artist show: August Rodin / Julian Schnabel, yet each artist has an entry assigned and a tunnel to walk through.

"Master" of spacial composition. Arranged artwork definitely helps see the sculpture in a new way. Some even seem to have been made specifically for this show. In certain vistas, they simply fit. How weird!

Nothing in the Schnabel's exhibit could be called beautiful, the work resists characterization. Portrait of the goat against a "fake" natural background, LOL. There is a stuffed bunny perched on its head, there are a scarf, a bell, a necklace, a G-d-knows what hangs off the goat's neck. This feels like a staged photoshoot in a cheap hole-in-the-wall city photo studio. Where is the painting? Schnabel wants to make a run-away painting when the painter is not present. Hilarious if nothing else.

Painting technique, with the use of gesso (a preparatory material, usually used in sealing canvas fabric and preparing it for painting) here used as the mark-making medium. Stretched material is gabardine tarpaulin JS discovered covering a traveling fruit market in the Lagunillas area of southern Mexico.

Quite are a few reviews there for the show! Read below. It did make quite a stir in SF around here with people complaining on social media about the horribly distracting presence of J. Schnabels' work to the comfort and poise of the Legion.

#Magritte #SFMOMA

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