In the Schnabel Chapel

Julian Schnabel, St. Sebastian, 1979, oil and wax on canvas, 111 x 66 inches (co
Julian Schnabel, St. Sebastian, 1979, oil and wax on canvas, 111 x 66 inches (collection of the artist, © Julian Schnabel; courtesy Oko/Luxembourg & Dayan)

On the occasion of the exhibition Julian Schnabel 1978 - 1981 at Oko, New York, Thomas Micchelli asks "Is it possible to look at Julian Schnabel’s 'St. Sebastian' (1979) with fresh eyes, as if the past 34 years of Schnabel Sturm und Schnabel Drang never really happened? As if it were a new painting fresh out of an unknown artist’s studio, landing inconspicuously in a storefront gallery on East 10th Street between 2nd and 1st?"

Micchelli answers: "I would like to say, without irony, “Sure it is,” which may sound like wishful thinking, and perhaps it is. But with “St. Sebastian,” a blank-slate approach was unexpectedly easy, primarily because, for all the image’s familiarity, I realized how different the painting looked, or rather felt, in the flesh... It’s the painting’s endearingly strange comedy — especially the bottom half of the body, which seems to flap away (and bring to mind the flagellation of St. Bartholomew) — that rescues it from post-adolescent self-pity and actually, in an odd way, ennobles it, as if invested with an amused stoicism."