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April 15, 2014

Julian Schnabel: In The Course of Seven Days

A Rare Look Inside the Artist's Home Studio as He Opens His First US Museum Show Since the 1980s

Julian Schnabel’s bold, appropriative style has polarized critical opinion since he burst onto the New York art scene in the late 1970s, becoming one of America’s most famous living painters. His reputation as an artist was almost eclipsed by his success as a film director, with credits including Basquiat and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for which he won the Palme D’Or. Porfirio Munoz’s documentary In The Course of Seven Days is timely: currently showing at the Dallas Contemporary—his first US museum show since the 1980s—and with two solo exhibitions coming up, the controversial Brooklyn-born painter is back in vogue. “This show is a capsule of what happened, a selection of paintings from the past 10 years, more or less,” says Schnabel of Every Angel Has a Dark Side, which opens at the Dairy Art Centre in London on 25 April. “It's a continuum of ways that I have made marks, used materials and created images.” 

Seven things that Julian Schnabel is excited about this spring:
1. Seeing my son.
2. Meeting all those fresh new people that are waiting to meet me.
3. Watching the buds turn into flowers.
4. Getting in the water.
5. Surfing.
6. Seeing these paintings hanging in all of these different places and seeing how people react to them.
7. Hanging around with my friends.
And everything else. 

Every Angel Has a Dark Side runs at The Dairy Art Centre from April 25 through July 27 2014. View of Dawn in the Tropics: Paintings, 1989-1990 opens at the Gagosian Gallery, NY on April 17 - May 31. Julian Schnabel: An Artist Has A Past (Puffy Clouds and Strong Cocktails) is at the Dallas Contemporary until 10 August.

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James Franco: Psycho Nacirema

The Hollywood Actor and Artist Pens an Exclusive Essay on His Latest Hitchcock-Inspired Work

As James Franco continues his multidisciplinary approach to creativity with his collaboration with Scottish artist Douglas Gordon, Psycho Nacirema, at London’s Pace Gallery, he takes us through why he looked to the Hitchcock classic in today’s short. The American A-lister has also penned an exclusive piece for NOWNESS, delving into the inspirations behind his twisted, cinematic installation.

Film into Art in Psycho Nacirema

Psycho Nacirema is a show that builds on projects and conversations that I have shared with Douglas Gordon. I’ve known Douglas for over six years; we first met in Avignon where he was having a retrospective. I was exposed to the wide range of his work. As someone who worked professionally in the film business, what struck me most was his appropriation of film and film forms into his work. He has undoubtedly been influenced by Hollywood and avant-garde film throughout his career, but this influence has not (yet) resulted in conventional narrative features. Instead he has used the influence to create structurally and conceptually dense work of various forms: film, video, photography, performance, music, sculpture, text, etc. Seeing all of this blew me away, it showed me that film, the world I was immersed in, could be used for results other than traditional narrative films.

For the past century, film and television have dominated popular culture. Moving pictures are what we turn to, more often than not, to reflect ourselves to ourselves. They have defined us, at least they have defined Americans, for better or worse, because of the power and pervasiveness of their images. Thus, partially influenced by my exposure to Douglas’s work (as well as the work of Cindy Sherman, Paul McCarthy, Richard Prince, Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, Isaac Julien, Mike Kelley, Chris Burden, Jeff Koons), I was drawn to the idea of using film as a source for other kinds of work. Using film as a starting point would provide me with a common base that many people could relate to. In addition, film and television techniques and procedures of production, distribution and interpretation have woven themselves into our everyday lives, so I also saw potential for a more meta kind of work to derive from the meditation on the practice of filmmaking.

I had worked with Douglas and several other artists on Rebel at MoCA in LA, a large collaborative show based on the Nicholas Ray film, Rebel Without a Cause. That project used the film as a starting place from which to branch off into many different kinds of projects based on different aspects of the film. Douglas worked on scenes that had been intended for the original film but were never shot because they were too violent. Douglas reinterpreted them with Dennis Hopper’s (a cast member in the original film) son, Henry Hopper and made an incredible video/sculpture/installation called “Henry Rebel.” With Psycho Nacirema, I wanted to build on the ideas that were explored in Rebel

I am interested in performance and reality, and the differences and similarities between the two. I feel we are all performers in the sense that our personalities and the way we live our lives are the result of choices and the ways we choose to react to our circumstances. Of course things are acted upon us, but the way we react always defines character. What we do in life is just a more sophisticated, open ended and subtle version of decisions that actors make when performing in front of a camera. The show explores all this by breaking down barriers between these two spheres, performance and reality. 

The show also isolates and makes discrete all the different aspects of film, which in a narrative film come together to make a tight and inextricable web: I speak of set construction, backdrop painting, acting, film and video themselves, music. All of these things are made discrete so that they can once again stand on their own as pieces. So, the set is a sculpture, a video is a sculpture, paintings become performances, etc. Once each aspect is made discrete then they are all brought together in the big installation so that one is immersed.

I love that Douglas comes from the art world, but looks to the film world for inspiration, while I come from the film world and look to the art world. We meet in the middle of both, have fun, and then cross over to the opposite sides.  

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Yu Hong: The Laughing Heart

One of China’s Foremost Artists Urges Calm in a Hyper-Accelerated Society

Yu Hong drifts through the post-industrial landscape of 751 D-Park in Beijing’s 798 art district in this intimate film by director Thomas Rhazi. Here reflecting on the frenetic rush of her country, Yu inhabits a quiet, thoughtful corner of the Chinese art world. Like her husband, artist Liu Xiaodong, she is influenced by social realism, creating a theatre of human form and experience that is often rendered in mixed materials including gold leaf and oil paint. Ever curious about how social shifts and the abandonment of tradition alter female experience—Yu’s own grandmother had her feet bound—she often uses herself as muse. “Female artists have less opportunities to exhibit and sell their work then men,” she says of the difficulty of being a creative woman in China. “This constricts their growth and their ability to break free of the traditional role with the family.” Yu’s work has been exhibited in galleries as diverse as the SFMOMA in California and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. She remembers her city’s transformation from a one-gallery town in the 1980s, when she defied social pressure to quit and procreate to study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. China has come a long way since then, but Yu is keen to focus on the human stress that such progress brings. “My work expresses the various problems a country faces when undergoing such rapid development,” she says. “It creates lots of pressure for individuals.”

Special thanks to 751 D-Park. 

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