Hard Times


Julian Schnabel: New Plate Paintings
Pace Gallery, NY
Feb 24th - Mar 25th, 2017

I'm not going to write a bad review of Julian Schnabel's show of roses painted on smashed plates up at Pace Gallery. I don't believe it matters what I think of them. The parameters that embraced what was good and rebuffed what was bad are mostly no longer in place. The people who will buy these paintings for $900,000 are as far from me as the people who built the pyramids were from those inside them.

Instead I would like to thank him for his role in what I choose to call, retroactively, The Art World. Back in the early '80s he made these heaving great objects covered in smashed crockery, as if a syrup-smeared bull had stormed through the Met in search of a distant buffet table. More chunks of stage than mere props, in some hammy, post-punk, baroque opera.

By the time they hit London, the publicity and vainglorious puff had reached gale levels. But we were glad of it. Our young artists were stuffy by comparison -- Lisa Milroy and Ken Kiff. They looked too interiorized. Yes, Schnabel was something!

Retrovisiting the '80s generation is revealing. It’s clear that some artists hit it later than others. In their sixties rather than their thirties. Marilyn Minter, Walter Robinson, and Thomas Nozkowski, for example.

And hitting it in your thirties isn't always desirable. The artists I've mentioned are better than they were, and many of their earlier, more successful, contemporaries are worse.

Nowadays I'm used to paintings coming at me full-on. Thanks to Jackie Saccoccio, Dona Nelson and Katherine Bernhardt. Relatively, his paintings look pretty and careful. And with history always at hand, it affects the path to the old work. It’s as if you can choose to forget one of the people who was with you at that end of a school party where you all got drunk for the first time. - Millree Hughes