While artist Julian Schnabel’s iconic plate paintings are made of broken dishes, a landmark exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum presents them as whole—and enduring.
“A painting is dead until somebody walks in front of it and it gets turned on.” –Julian Schnabel
If you passed by Julian Schnabel’s studio in Montauk, Long Island, or in New York City in the late 1970s and early ’80s, you might have thought there was a big argument in progress. The artist spent that period taking a hammer to white dinner plates, smashing them up. Whereas some choose to pulverize pigments to later apply to their canvases, Schnabel instead broke dishware that he later glued to wooden surfaces, then painted on and over the shards. In some cases, he positioned the plates on the surface to function as sources of light and shading. Thus were born what are now known as Schnabel’s “plate paintings,” 12 iconic examples of which are on display in the Aspen Art Museum starting this month.