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Francesco Clemente, Brice Marden, Helen Marden, and Julian Schnabel

Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rabat Morocco

APR 26 - OCT 2, 2024

Painting of a bird with a cloud backdrop by Francesco Clemente

Francesco Clemente
The Sky on the Wall, 2012
Pigment on linen
112 x 91 inches (284.5 x 231.1 cm)
© Francesco Clemente; Photo by Eric Vigil; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Gallery

Abstract painting in blue and green by Brice Marden

Brice Marden
Epitaph Painting 4, 2000
Oil on linen
73 x 73 1/2 inches (185.4 x 186.7 cm)
© 2024 Estate of Brice Marden / Artists Rights Society (ARS); Photo by Oren Slor; Courtesy of the Estate of Brice Marden and Gagosian Gallery

Abstract painting in red with mixed media by Helen Marden

Helen Marden
Flutter, 2023
Shells, sea glass, resin, and pigment on canvas
50 x 50 x 3 inches (127 x 127 x 7.6 cm)
© 2024 Helen Marden / Artists Rights Society (ARS); Photo by Maris Hutchinson; Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery

Plate painting of roses by Julian Schnabel

Julian Schnabel
Large Rose Painting (Near Van Gogh's Grave), 2015
Oil, plates, and bondo on wood
84 x 120 x 9 3/4 inches (213.4 x 304.8 x 24.8 cm)
© Julian Schnabel Studio Photo by Tom Powel Imaging

Press Release

Travel Diaries brings together four internationally renowned contemporary painters from New York: Francesco Clemente, Brice Marden, Helen Marden, and Julian Schnabel. These artists have traveled the world, drawing inspiration from diverse and varied cultures.

The showcased artworks, curated by Vito Schnabel, highlight the influence of different destinations discovered during their travels, in search of new iconographic and discursive horizons. The exhibition is on view through October 2nd at the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rabat, Morocco.

It is my extraordinary pleasure and luck to be able to present here in Rabat an exhibition of four artists that I have been indelibly linked with my whole life, Helen and Brice Marden, Francesco Clemente and my father, Julian Schnabel. They have known each other since before I was born and their lives have been inextricably connected through the community of artists that come to New York, drawn from all the corners of the globe. The distinct qualities of their works show that painting and sensibility can co-exist in dialogue and manifestation of differences of appearance and yet sing together harmoniously as voices of a choir that draws from the inexhaustible possibilities of inspiration, curiosity, travel and longing, where the familiar and the unfamiliar find a new home. The familial quality of this exhibition can only be achieved by the living and breathing dialogue that these four artists have had in life and in art.

On closer examination of this exhibition of four contemporary painters from New York: words like Post-Minimalists and Neo-Expressionists, in fact all -isms seem to fall short of defining what has been accomplished by these diverse artists from different generations. In the scheme of things, this small period of when they lived and died will be defined by the peculiarities of their works– not generalities or the lumping together of artists by superficial appearances or the desire for a quick and easy way to dispose of their unique personalities. They are New York artists, no matter where they came from. They rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bob Dylan, Ornette Coleman, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, and so many that they knew in common that we’ve never heard of, but they were there too! These connections give birth to fruitful dialogue and an exploration of the boundless subversive and exploratory potential of art. Going out searching for other versions of themselves, these artists set out on a path of discovery of a fertile, creative elsewhere, across the oceans.

From the late 1960s onwards, artistic practices emerged to question the precepts of minimalism that deconstructed traditional genres. Thus, since the beginning of his career in the 1960s, Brice Marden has continuously refined and extended the traditions of abstraction. Experimenting with diverse techniques grasped from his many travels, Marden’s work blends Minimalism's structure, Abstract Expressionism's immediacy, and calligraphy's gesture in his exploration of gesture, line, and color.

Helen Marden's electric, audacious palette adorned with biomorphic shapes and organic objects such as shells and feathers in resin gives her work a liquescent freedom, an unruliness and a brightness that speaks to her travels to Marrakech or the islands of the Aegean Sea or anywhere where she can find something to stick in her painting and extend its surface. The diversity of Brice and Helen’s work shows how love and respect can foster radically different approaches to painting in the same house!

From the late 1970s onwards, artists reactivated the central role of painting in visual culture, considering it a fundamental support for its own expressive, aesthetic, and emotional capacities that seemed to be restricted in the pursuit of reductivism. Neo-expressionism was a term used to describe an international movement of figurative artists like Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, and Anselm Kiefer from Germany; the three Cs from Italy: Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, and Francesco Clemente (Transavangardia); and from the US, Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and others. These artists were of different generations but had different needs and desires for painting that was a break from the coolness of Minimalism. Many were in the historic 1981 show at the Royal Academy in London, A New Spirit of Painting.

Since the late 1970s, Francesco and Julian have shown together many times and continue to be close friends. Julian Schnabel’s radical use of materials, including broken dishes and velvet as a surface, and his experimental, transgressive propositions revitalized the interest in painting as a legitimate medium for contemporary theory and expression. His first plate painting, The Patients and the Doctors, reshaped the face of contemporary art– it would never be the same.

Francesco Clemente spent his formative years in India. His language bridges the emblems and symbols of mystic traditions from the East and from the West, bringing them back to life through personal experience. Half a century ago, when painting had been pronounced dead, Clemente’s work fostered, along with the work of other artists of his generation, the return to painting. After moving to New York in the 1980s, Clemente pioneered, with his nomadic lifestyle, the image of the artist engaged globally. Exploring identity, spirituality, and mythology in his work, Clemente’s paintings are rich of allegories, symbols and iconographies inspired by his many travels to Afghanistan, China, Brazil, North Africa and the Caribbeans. He is a master of the many mediums that fall within the tradition of paintings, from fresco to watercolor to oil and mixed media pigments on canvas.

Morocco is a country that Francesco Clemente, Helen and Brice Marden, as well as Julian Schnabel have visited, loved, and where they have resided and worked. I carefully selected the work for this exhibition to explore the influence of the multiple destinations discovered during their travels in search of new iconographic and discursive horizons. This Travel Diaries exhibition offers an immersion into their intimate and singular universes, thus revealing a visual mapping of their sources of inspiration.

Vito Schnabel
New York, April 2024