A series of ‘broken plate’ paintings in 1979 set the table for Julian Schnabel to become a New York City darling. When he left Mary Boone for the Pace Gallery five years later, Schnabel opened with an audacious series of figurative paintings on velvet that staked a more decisive claim for the artist as the neo-expressionist de jure of the decade of excesses.
Nicknames of Maitre d’s should be considered the most important painting of that seminal 1984 exhibition. It is a painting that to this day resonates mightily with an artist who used its title for his autobiography, “CVJ: Nicknames of Maitre D’s and Other Excerpts from Life”. This monumental frenetic painting is a highly personal evocation.
It has what the best neo-expressionist works strive to achieve: a restive nature, on the keen edge of scatter-shot imagery, matched to a unified narrative. This is a painting informed by deeply felt remembrances processed and painted with reckless abandon.
Independent of its allusive web of references, the paint here is luminescent and glowing against the light-absorbing velvet, the texture of which gave Schnabel the license to play in paint and extemporize ideas freely. The result is a dazzling vision upon an infinite field of depth that for the artist, must have represented the abyss of the psyche from which all thoughts and memories arise.