Julian Schnabel

What's on: Julian Schnabel

Gagosian Gallery (24th Street)

It is hard genuinely to judge an artist by work alone, especially when they have achieved a vast degree of fame or fortune, or are so surrounded by anecdotal history that their actual oeuvre comes to seem irrelevant. If Julian Schnabel had stayed back in Texas only exhibiting in alternative spaces, he would by now have gathered a clan of influential supporters and vociferous fans demanding recognition if not a modest retrospective for this cruelly ignored talent. If Schnabel was thus genuinely, fairly, judged just by the paintings and sculpture he has produced so far (pretending hard that he was a bitter 50-year-old commercial failure) nobody would deny his undoubted, overt talents. Decorative, yes, dramatic, yes, romantic indeed, prone to self-mythology maybe, but if Motherwell, Tàpies or Twombly are worthy of any serious respect then Schnabel should not be far behind. For this bravura show of suitably massive “Big girl paintings” (above, “Large girl with no eyes”, 2001) at Gagosian (until 20 April) try to imagine how one would react to the pictures if this were a non-profit artist’s space on the outskirts of Houston, giving a break to a much overlooked local artist.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 124 April 2002