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04/21/14 Julian Schnabel’s “View of Dawn in the Tropics: Paintings, 1989-1990”

Julian Schnabel is one of the art world’s most enduring enfant terribles. With paintings that incorporate everything from soaked velvet to broken plates, the artist has defied conventions in material and medium. In his recently launched exhibition at New York’s Gagosian Gallery, however, what is perceived by many as a maverick approach to painting seems more founded on humility. “View of Dawn in the Tropics: Paintings, 1989-1990” shows works from a period of great surrender, most especially to the heedlessness of Mother Nature.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Schnabel had adopted an en plein air style of painting. Taking up a dilapidated building in Florida and al fresco sites in Montauk and San Sebastian, the artist left sailcloth, tarpaulins, and even rolls of velvet to circumstance and the elements. By allowing both his application of oil and resin to react to the mark of the unwieldy (his dog’s paw prints, say, or the effects of a tropical storm), the artist is at creation’s behest. Whether by chance or design, Schnabel also addresses themes humanity is similarly thrust upon: suffering, sexuality, redemption, death, and belief. As the uncontrollable melds harmoniously with the intentional in Schnabel’s works, we view man and nature as worthy co-authors to something that can be both magnificent and hopeful.

“View of Dawn in the Tropics: Paintings, 1989-1990″ runs at New York’s Gagosian Gallery until May 31. 

Untitled, 1989 oil on green tarpaulin

Untitled, 1990

A little later, 1990 oil, gesso on white tarp