Reviews

Loves and Lovers - Marty Schnapf

Opening soon at Diane Rosenstein Gallery this is a show that absolutely must not be missed

WRITTEN BY GABRIELLA SONABEND, JUNE 2019

In 2018 I saw a solo exhibition of paintings by Marty Schnapf at Alice Black Gallery in London which more than sparked my interest. After spending a while with the work and speaking extensively to gallerist Alice Black about Schnapf I was compelled to review the show and to interview the artist to understand the psyche behind the work which had the potential to be read in so many ways. To my delight Schnapf’s responses to my emails were fascinating, revealing a thought process which combined the esoteric with the pragmatic, research with feeling, in essence all the right ingredients. In early 2019 I travelled with artist Sol Bailey-Barker to California to visit painter Harriet Poznansky and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Schnapf in LA at a moment when his studio was home to an entirely new and unseen body of work.

Artist Marty Schnapf in his LA studio, 2019

Artist Marty Schnapf in his LA studio, 2019

Entering Schnapf studio building was like walking into a heavenly oasis, in comparison to most London studios, it was in a gated complex, surrounded by a tropical garden of oversized jungle ferns and creepers, each studio had high ceilings, concrete floors and an abundance of light and space. It felt like the kind of place you would expect to find something extraordinary, like how studios look in films, the kind of films that reveal the poverty and horrors of being an artist - yet still make you want to be one.

Familiar with Schnapf’s previous work I was expecting to walk into a space filled with colourful, semi-psychedelic paintings, I was imagining tables covered in pigments and paints but most definitely a space filled with colour. Before Schnapf opened the door, there was a brief and modest disclaimer, that the studio was filled with new work that no one had seen before and they were not like anything I’d seen of his before.

Seven movements, 129.5cm x 114.3cm, Charcoal on Paper, 2019

Seven movements, 129.5cm x 114.3cm, Charcoal on Paper, 2019

I walk in and my reaction is immediate and physical. I am transfixed. It is true that I’m fanatic about art, but I don’t love everything, on the contrary I can be a very harsh critic and find it hard to conceal what I think. I’ve marched out of blockbuster shows at Gagosian with disgust and been bored at the Tate. I have my own taste and it isn’t swayed by other people’s opinions. I remember the first time I saw an Anselm Kiefer painting in the flesh, I was 12 years old, my grandmother took me to a show at the White Cube in London, I was so moved and overwhelmed by his work that I broke down in tears, I was shaking, heart racing, I could feel the power of the work as if I was part of it, without knowing anything about it - I just knew it was real and I understood something fundamental about where it came from that shared a space with my own interior world.

When I walked into Schnapf studio I think my words were something along the lines of ‘holy f*ck Marty - these are f*cking incredible’ probably followed by many more emphatic expletives and about an hour of pacing up and down staring at every piece feeling like a kid in a candy shop. What I saw was around 30 charcoal drawings on paper, around one meter by one meter in size. I remember at art school people loved to talk about painting & drawing being ‘dead’ and perhaps a lot of it is and so much work on paper feels exhausted or derivative but you cannot kill that which is irrepressibly alive and this was a beating pulse.

You have the chance to be more beautiful than you have ever been, Charcoal on Paper, 2019

You have the chance to be more beautiful than you have ever been, Charcoal on Paper, 2019

The drawings are mainly of single figures contorted in strange shapes, some feel like familiar yoga poses, whilst others much more abstract and confusing stances, some of the drawings depict multiple people with entangled and confused limbs, some appear to show one body fracturing into many. Throughout the body of work the figures depicted emerge out of a dense blackness, the charcoal heavily worked into the backgrounds whilst the bodies maintain an effortless looseness making them look like they just appeared and at any moment may disappear and move on. The moments Schnapf has captured are so immediate they are almost frightening because they show us the essence of the Now. They show what I think we all feel under the surface, a layer of reality which doesn’t find its way into social media, that can only exist in the tangible world and not the virtual. These works have a quality which are deeply mystic, seeing them I felt as if Schnapf had travelled into the void to bring them back, they are the slippery surface of dreams, the thoughts we cannot express, the fears we hide, the lust and love we conceal, the effort to convey what we cannot.

This June 15 - August 17 Schnapf will exhibit this work in a solo exhibition at Diane Rosenstein Gallery in Los Angeles entitled ‘Loves and Lovers’. Do not miss this exhibition, these works have an extremely rare power which will blow you away. If Schnapf had let me (and I could have afforded it) I would have bought every piece. Art collectors beware these are worth fighting for! 

Gabriella Sonabend