New York

Julian Schnabel

Leo Castelli Gallery

Signs of empire, ancient empire, dominated here. It was as if this Julian Schnabel museum of pseudo-Egyptian and Roman finds—mummies, standards, amphorae, pot shards—were a confession that he finds contemporary life too minor in key. When he deals with modernity it is in flat, restrained paintings, wherein mechanical life-support systems, intravenous, help sustain an affectless existence subdivided into tracts of Piet Mondrian rectangles tied up with Barnett Newman ribbons. Interiority becomes a matter of tubal connections and ligations. Schnabel’s bent is elegiac; what’s curious is how that strain is purest in the “modern” works, those that treat the present rather than the past. The explanation seems to reside in this variance: for Schnabel glory is the aura bestowed by time, and can only be achieved by objects; as the object ages it annexes surrounding matter in a kind of archaeological

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