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Marc François Auboire by Julian Schnabel

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Marc François Auboire by Julian Schnabel.

About the Work

Title: Marc François Auboire
Artist : Julian Schnabel
Year : 1988
Medium : oil, plates and bondo on wood
Dimensions : 72 x 60 x 6 1/8in. (183 x 152.5 x 15.5cm.)
Location : Private Collection

Julian-Schnabel_Marc-François-Auboire-1988_Artwork-in-Focus_Divvya-Nirula
Marc Francois Auboire, 1988 by Julian Schnabel
Image courtesy : Christies

Marc François Auboire

Julian Schnabel’s Marc-François Auboire, is in his typical style – a huge painting, in his hallmark style of painting on broken plates. The broken plates, when one studies them up close are splintered, jagged and cracked with layers of paint – red, green, black, purple, ochre and brown. But when one changes their perspective, the cracked scape of bright colour repose comfortably as a beautiful portrait with infinite subtleties that are hidden in a close up. As critics have said – that it is truly a monumental composition.

The gentleman, Marc-François Auboire, was a friend of Julian and a fellow artist Anh Duong. The image of the dark-haired man in his lilac jacket against a patterned red background is a thought provoking statement of what Auboire might be thinking about. This keeps in line with Schnabel’s preoccupation with inviting the audience to study and experience the work.

Schnabel’s style was a foray into the open and experimental styles of painting in the 1980s. The shattered platters were evocative of contemporary cultural crises, the fragmented aspect of postmodern works. Moreover the plates carried within themselves a bit of history itself, : these works suggestive of ancient archaeological sites, signifying the impermanence of kingdoms.

‘I was trying to tear the mosaic out of its own body to make a bridge to something just outside of my own body. All of this was happening before I even started to paint the painting. It was that radical moment an artist waits for. I wanted to make something that was exploding as much as I wanted to make something that was cohesive.’

Julian Schnabel

Schnabel’s Auboire, demonstrated his central idea of something at once ‘exploding’ and ‘cohesive’, an oppositional movement that finds remarkable expression in the work. An artwork that is so vivid and dynamic to the viewer, invested with a sense of mobility depending on their vantage point of the viewer.

Other Details

Schnabel’s inspiration to create his broken-plate artworks was rooted in a trip that he and his friend Ross Bleckner had taken to Europe. In his travels to Barcelona, in 1978 he witnessed the ground-breaking work of Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s signature style employed broken china in his mosaics.

According to Schnabel, talking about his medium – “(it)..had a certain kind of reflective quality and density of colour and light that I felt hadn’t really been used in painting, that was sort of off the ground and had a … pictorial possibility, besides the psychological one.”

Marc-François Auboire looks on from his frame through his broken china surface, with a great deal of composure. He too is an artist – a piece made up of several pieces. Does that make him broken or does that make him whole. He invites the audience to explore the land between that which is organised and that which is chaotic. Schnabel’s vision informing a whole new way of looking.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the archive for Artwork in Focus.

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