Art for Navigators

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Sometimes news reaches you across the Internet, and you’re transported somewhere else. I feel like I’m in New York today. Julian Schnabel, artist and filmmaker, has just opened a new exhibition entitled “Navigation Drawings” at the Sperone Westwater gallery in New York. His canvasses are old discarded nautical maps, marked from years of usage, no longer accurate, as the contours of the land and waters have changed over time. Schnabel has stretched and mounted these maps on linen and painted over them in thick clumps and thin washes of paint, always letting the maps and their legends shine through. His colors could be straight from the shipyard, with bright yellows and rusty oranges, deep maroons and reds and a clear light blue bringing the old, faded maps to life.



pictures: johnnie utah on flickr

Schnabel is an expert surfer. He says he works outdoors, out in Montauk on Long Island where he lives. He puts these big maps on the ground, and then works over them in broad sweeps. “Clean it up and put it in frames and stick it on the wall,” he says, “you have the kind of a sensation of a larger stroke or movement that gets more amplified when you put it inside.” Expanding space, openness, light.

Artists. Schnabel wore pyjamas – and no underwear – to his very chic opening, with everybody who is anybody in New York in attendance. He told Melena Ryzik, who interviewed him for the New York Times, “I feel more like I’m at home, so it makes me feel more comfortable.”

Maps provide a frame of reference. But what happens when that system fails? Schnabel’s new film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which will be out in Germany on 27 March, deals with the story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke at the age of 43 that left him with locked-in syndrome. His only means of communication was blinking his left eyelid. What a story – especially for someone as physical and visual as Schnabel to tell. He won the best director prize at Cannes for it. To advertise the film, Schnabel has posted one of the Navigation drawings up on the film site, along with a homage to his father, and an explanation about how facing paralysis provides “a chance at consciousness”.

Art critic Charlie Finch poked fun at the oversize ego of a man who has gone and dropped “colored turds” all over old maps to the tune of $60,000 a piece. OK, art critics have every right to say that sort of thing, and yes, it is slightly outside my price range. Thanks, Internet, for taking me on a free trip to see some mind-opening art for navigators in New York.

  • See Melena Ryzik’s NYT UrbanEye interview video here.
  • You can also walk through the show with James Kalm’s video here.
  • Schnabel has been awarded a Golden Globe as Best Director. Next: an Oscar?

Learning the Ropes – damit Sie mit den Vokabeln klar kommen

drawing, to draw – Zeichnung, zeichnen
painting, to paint – Gemälde, malen
canvass – Leinwand
to discard – ausrangieren
nautical map – Seekarte
to stretch – spannen
to mount – befestigen
linen – Leinenwash (n) – transparenter Autrag
shipyard – Werft
rusty – rostig
maroon – rotbraun
to fade, faded – verblassen, verblasst
a broad sweep – ein ausladender Bogen
everybody who is anybody – alles, was Rang und Namen hat
in attendance – Dienst tuend
frame of reference – Bezugsrahmen
diving bell – Taucherglocke
to suffer a stroke – Schlaganfall erleiden
locked-in syndrome – Eingeschlossensein
to blink – Blinselneyelid – Augenlid
director – Regisseur
paralysis – Lähmung
to poke fun at so. – jmd. auf die Schippe nehmen
he has gone and … – er hat einfach …
turd – Scheißhaufen
to the tune of $X a piece – in Höhe von X$ pro Stück
outside my price range – außerhalb meiner Preisklasse


2 Responses

  1. This blog is brilliant! I love hearing your voice as I read along or look at the pics. The vocabulary list will be a great boon to German readers. You write beautifully and choose interesting topics.

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