A monumental encounter between Schnabel, Goya and Velázquez


Julian Schnabel’s version of Goya’s “Queen María Luisa on Horseback” / Francisco Hinojasa

The CAC Malaga presents more than 20 large-scale works by the American artist in which he reinterprets classics of Spanish painting

The opening was later than expected, mainly due to the transporters’ strike a few weeks ago which left the Julian Schnabel exhibition “Schnabel and Spain: everything can serve as a model for a painting” at CAC Malaga with mostly bare walls.

Now, the works are all in place but the artist, who is one of the big names in contemporary art, was not there for the inauguration. Nevertheless, his presence manifested itself not only through the monumental oil paintings which are his homage and a reinterpretation of Velázquez and Goya, but also in the way in which they are presented, which the American artist supervised himself. same, explained the curator of the exhibition, Fernando Francés, and Cy Schnabel, his son.

“My father is not very well known for his portraits, so it is interesting to see this collection of “resin portraits” in which he gives his version of works such as Velázquez’s Christ, which is on display in the Prado Museum , and that of Goya, Duchess of Alba,” says Cy, standing in front of a gigantic work that opens the exhibition.

It is easily recognizable as Goya’s “Queen María Luisa on Horseback”, but with a white stripe running north to south across the painting. It’s a personal touch that passes from one work to another in this collection of more than 20 pieces visible at CAC Malaga until June 12.

“It’s the game that the artist is interested in, playing with the past of a recognizable original work but converting it into something today through an intervention that is clearly recognizable as his own”, explained Cy Schnabel about his father’s way of reusing the classics. He explains the subtitle of the name of the exhibition: “everything can serve as a model for a painting”.

This approach of the Spanish portrait masters began in the late 1990s when the painter and director of the films ‘Antes que anochezca’ and ‘Basquiat’ lived in Spain, and it continued in the ‘goats series’ from of 2013, with the design of these “portraits” which followed the rules of the equestrian genre but with digital techniques. Again, it’s Schnabel’s idea of ​​old and new, old and modern, classic and contemporary.

“For me, these works – with the figure of the goat – are self-portraits of my father,” said Cy Schnabel, who also discovered a personal and almost Freudian note in the size of the oils and other paintings on display, some of which have a sculptural appearance.

“The dimensions correspond to the scale on which the painter lives, which is monumental”, he said about the size of the works and all the work of an artist who is defined by his ability to reinvent himself and to recodify his art at all times.

The exhibition also includes some of Julian Schnabel’s most recent works, in which material objects become the protagonist. We now see shabby old tarpaulins that have covered cars for years become canvases on which the white spots remain, but which the figuration converts into abstraction.

“These are objects that he takes out of their original context and transforms into works of art,” Cy said, and also pointed to the Spanish influence on this series which is reminiscent of another icon maker, Tapies.

The magnetism of the white stripes is the great protagonist of this exhibition, although the symbolism is open to interpretation.

“For me, they represent the present; when a viewer stands in front of these works, the white band connects them to the present and shows this tension between past and present,” said Schnabel Junior, who also pointed out that they could be interpreted as an erasure, a disrespectful and defiant graffiti of the artist towards the classic works or the iconic images on which they are based.

“It’s like killing the father, even if he is still recognizable,” commented Fernando Francés.


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