New York – Julian Schnabel: “Flag Painting” at Karma, through April 26th 2014

April 23rd, 2014

Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings, via Art Observed
Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings, via Art Observed

Currently on view at Karma on Great Jones Street in New York is an exhibition of new work by American artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, featuring spray and ink painted flags Schnabel found and has used as a canvas, changing the meaning of the symbols and questioning nationalistic, religious, and cultural definitions.

Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings (Installation View), via Art Observed
Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings (Installation View), via Art Observed

Born in 1951 in Brooklyn, Schnabel moved to Brownsville, Texas at an early age, and received his BFA at the University of Houston. He was admitted into the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art after graduating, and his first solo show was at the Mary Boone Gallery in 1979. He first became internationally recognized in the 1980s for his “plate paintings” – painted works on broken ceramic plates.

Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings (Installation View), via Art Observed
Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings (Installation View), via Art Observed

Here, Schnabel takes these “objects of identification,” flags representing not just national – but also cultural, religious, infrastructural, and even corporate – identities, and subverts their meaning with expressive, quick strokes of paint, reminiscent of both graffiti art and 1960s minimalism at the same time.  In addition, Schnabel’s physical alterations of the flags themselves, occasionally stretching them out to comic lengths, or twisting them into new forms (one flag makes up the upholstery of a chair), pushes the act of political identification into a more practical, material dialogue.

Julian Schnabel, Flag Painting, via KARMA

Conversely, much of the work seems to work against the hard lines and color blocks of the flag.  As a simple composition in color and space, Schnabel turns the flag into a zone for improvisation and messiness.  Many of the works are defined by marks made in stark opposition to the geometry of the flag, either by sketching out new territories through perpendicular lines, or through loose, curving marks that wind around the surface of the work.

Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings, via Art Observed
Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings, via Art Observed

Along with the exhibition, Karma has published a monograph entitled Draw A Family, which was the title of one of Schnabel’s first paintings. The monograph includes a comprehensive view of Schnabel’s practice over the past 40 years and his impact on painting today.

The exhibition at Karma in New York will continue through April 26, 2014.


Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings (Installation View), via KARMA


Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings (Installation View), via KARMA


Julian Schnabel, Flag Paintings (Installation View), via KARMA

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Karma]