Julian Schnabel

April 21, 2018August 5, 2018

Since 1977, Julian Schnabel has transformed what painting is, what a painting can be, and how paintings can be done. His works’ sheer physical presence; their novelties in material, surface, and form; and their poetic sentiments have captured people’s imagination as they negate the distinctions between abstraction and figuration. The exhibition Julian Schnabel will feature a new body of work created for the Legion of Honor’s outdoor Court of Honor. At twenty-four by twenty-four feet, these paintings are architectural and monumental in scale, yet part of an ephemeral natural cycle. Painted on found tarp-like material, they will be exposed to the elements over the four-month run of Julian Schnabel and will thus absorb their own exhibition history. They epitomize, in the artist’s words, “much of what are the essential characteristics of the smallest and most nascent proposals of how imagery, drawing, and material could be called a painting. . . as far as I can currently take painting; this week.”

In addition, the exhibition will present eight paintings, extraordinary in all aspects, from three distinct bodies of work: a new series of abstractions on Mexican sack linen that echo his Treatise of Melancholia series (1989) painted on found tarpaulin; recent works in the series Goat Paintings (begun in 2012), each of which superimposes a surrealistically outsized goat—his nod to Diego Velázquez’s White Horse (1635)—and gestural marks onto reprints of nineteenth-century wallpaper; and paintings from the Jane Birkin series (1990), which incorporate the actress’s signature name with abstract marks in oil and gesso on Egyptian sailcloth. Presented in the three galleries dedicated to sculpture by Auguste Rodin, these works represent Schnabel’s response to the physical space and to eternal themes of desire, love, suffering, death, and redemption that pervade the collection at the Legion of Honor.

Image: Julian Schnabel's studio in Montauk, 2017. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging, © Julian Schnabel Studio


This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Major support is provided by Deutsche Bank.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Contemporary Arts Program is made possible by Presenting Sponsor the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Fund.

Major support is provided by Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman and The Paul L. Wattis Foundation. Significant support is provided by Frances F. Bowes. Additional support is provided by Kate Harbin Clammer and Adam Clammer, Jessica and Jason Moment, Katie Schwab Paige and Matt Paige, David and Roxanne Soward, Joachim and Nancy Hellman Bechtle, Jeffrey N. Dauber and Marc A. Levin, Shaari Ergas, Laurent Fischer and Jason Joseph Anthony, Kaitlyn and Mike Krieger, Lore Harp McGovern, Rotasa Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Schwab, Gwynned Vitello, Vance Wall Foundation, Anonymous, and the Contemporary Support Council of the Fine Arts Museums.