American downtown art icon and filmmaker Julian Schnabel reveals his madcap world through magical monster-camera, the Polaroid Land.
Julian Schnabel’s Polaroids, exhibited at Magda Danysz Gallery in Paris, are not the little 3¼” × 4¼” insta-squares that have (sadly) been taken off the market. These images are 20″x24″ prints snapped with a rare mammoth 1970s Polaroid Land camera. Only seven of these devices exist in the world, due to the heft of the camera and the hefty price of studio maintenance/print production. Think: an oversize viewfinder, a hand-cranked system that regulates the lens, an insanely large flash, a system of rollers, manually-cut film, each print peeled away from its black negative which must be left to dry. The resultant details are sharp though unpredictable since the system is so sensitive.
Director of Before Night Falls and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (which earned him Best Director at Cannes 2007), Schnabel photographs his grand Palazzo Chupi, the condo playground he built in the style of a gaudy Northern Italian palazzo. The building is allegedly christened as such after the colourfully-wrapped Chupa Chups lollipops! Located in Manhattan’s West Village, the palazzo’s garish pink exterior positively horrified New Yorkers when it was first erected. Inside, the gold-trimmed furniture, indoor swimming pool, and blue and crimson walls are muted through the lens, softened into hallucinatory visions of a trippy art residency.
Schnabel’s Montauk property on the east end of Long Island also features in his photographs. The Blind Girl Surf Club logo – a girl with her eyes barred by a white stripe – is a recurrent image. But it is the black-and-white photograph of Olmo, his young son, that is the most memorable: the naked child’s silhouette, juxtaposed like an small backyard statue between garden greenery, captures an innocent nature-before-nurture moment.
Though untitled, the photographs identify the location or the person depicted. Many images need no introduction. There are three portraits of the ever-grotty Mickey Rourke, and a close-up of a haggard looking Christopher Walken. The portraits persist with solemn-looking maestro Placido Domingo, a washed out gray apparition of Takashi Murakami, and a playful group shot of Max von Sydow and Dick Cavett, with Schnabel peeking out between them. There is an introspective melancholy portrait of Olatz, Schnabel’s Spanish-Basque ex-wife, whom he left for Rula Jebreal (author of Miral, which Schnabel adapted into a film). In a cheerier scene, Schnabel’s self-portrait with Lou Reed is a nice shared moment where the two men are not icons, but just rumpled friends, with their arms around each other.
Julian Schnabel’s Polaroids at Magda Danysz Gallery, 78 rue Amelot, Paris runs until 3rd December.
Text: Sarah Moroz
Images courtesy Galerie Magda Danysz