Skip to content

Julian Schnabel

Julian Schnabel Plate Paintings 1978–86

Aspen Art Museum

NOV 4, 2016 - FEB 19, 2017

The Patients and the Doctors

The Patients and the Doctors
Oil, plates, and bondo on wood
96 x 108 x 12 inches (243.84 x 274.32 x 30.48 cm)

Press Release


The Aspen Art Museum announces a survey of Julian Schnabel's iconic plate paintings  

The Aspen Art Museum is proud to present the first exhibition in an American museum focusing solely on artist Julian Schnabel’s legendary plate paintings. On view from November 4, 2016 to February 19, 2017, this exhibition will feature thirteen plate paintings from 1978–1986. The paintings have come from private collections and museums around the world. Schnabel’s pioneering plate paintings are what initially caught the New York art world’s attention, leading to his first exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery in 1979. The forthcoming exhibition, organized by Nancy and Bob Magoon CEO and Director Heidi Zuckerman, presents a comprehensive survey of these works including the artist’s first plate painting, The Patients and the Doctors (1978), in galleries 4 and 5. Schnabel’s practice defies traditional categorization, culling distinct styles and disparate media engaged in material experimentation, negotiating the physicality of surface, and exploring the relationship between the figure and abstraction. Schnabel rejected orthodox, dogmatic definitions of Minimalism and Conceptual Art movements lauded by the American art world at the time. 

The oversized canvases, abundance of materials used, and divergent techniques in which collaged media and imagery were sourced from classical and contemporary culture then applied effusively in a thickly layered manner are characteristics of Schnabel’s continued exploration of painting itself. After creating the first plate painting in New York City in 1978, critics championed Schnabel at the time for heralding in the “return” of painting, and the works featured in this exhibition are emblematic of Schnabel’s continued exploration of materiality and figuration. The plate paintings are made possible through the use of Bondo®, a material used for body repairs for dents in cars. His poetic use of found materials, printed and reproducible images, his unconventional and inventive mark-making, and his embrace of chance operations (whether dragging a canvas on the ground, allowing a drop cloth to absorb stains of nature and of the studio, or exposing the paintings to the forces of weather) can be seen echoed within Schnabel’s entire body of work as well as in the work of a subsequent generation of artists. Varying from portraits and landscapes to bold abstractions, the resulting compositions obscure and complicate otherwise familiar subjects—rendered identifiable if only through their titles. Schnabel is constantly uncovering new ways of what a painting can be. “An artist at work is not at all concerned with the state of art in general. That is art that already exists. Julian in his studio, however, was looking for a painting that had never been made before. Nothing less. There are no rules for new painting.” (Rudi Fuchs) Bearing in mind his continued relevance in the contemporary art world, this exhibition marks an occasion to revisit the storied artist’s plate paintings—perhaps now arguably one of his most iconic bodies of work, but also only one aspect of his expansive oeuvre. This will be the first time for many to stand in front of these paintings that were made almost four decades ago.

Julian Schnabel (b. New York City, 1951) received his BFA from the University of Houston in 1973, and then returned to New York to participate in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. In 1978, Schnabel traveled throughout Europe, and in Barcelona, was particularly moved by the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. That same year, he made his first plate painting, The Patients and the Doctors. His first solo painting exhibition took place at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York City in 1979.

Schnabel’s work has been exhibited at numerous international institutions, including: The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1982; Tate Gallery, London, 1982; Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1987; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, 1987; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1987; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1987; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 1987; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1987; Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nîmes, 1989; Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, 1989; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1989; Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 1989; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1989; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Monterrey, 1994; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, 1995; Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna, 1996; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt/Main, 2004; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2004; Rotonda della Besana, Milan, 2007; Tabakalera, Donostia-San Sebastián, 2007; Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, 2009; The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2010; Museo Correr, Piazza San Marco, Venice, 2011; J.F. Willumsens Museum, Frederikssund, 2013; The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, 2013; Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, 2014; Dairy Art Centre, London, 2014; Museu de Arte de São Paulo, São Paulo, 2014, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, 2014; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, 2015.

His work is included in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Guggenheim Museum, New York and Bilbao; Tate Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Kunstmuseum, Basel; Fondation Musée d’Art Moderne, Luxembourg; and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Schnabel currently lives and works in New York City and Montauk, Long Island.

The Aspen Art Museum is a non-collecting institution presenting the newest, most important evolutions in international contemporary art. Our innovative and timely exhibitions, education and public programs, immersive activities, and community happenings actively engage audiences in thought-provoking experiences of art, culture, and society.

For more information, visit the Aspen Art Museum's website.

Aspen Art Museum 
637 E Hyman Ave
Aspen, CO 81611