Recently, our class took a field trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum, where I saw the painting Claudio al Mandrione (Zona Rosa), which was painted by Julian Schnabel. After research of the title, Zona Rosa represents a Communist enclave that exists in Rome. The fundamentals of Communism is clearly supported by the great amounts of red used in this painting. Combined with the broken plates and the expressions on the faces of the couple seen, I feel that there is a great amount of aggression taking place. I believe this aggression appears to be the opinion of Schnabel’s, where he shows disdain for the communist party. This idea is supported by the fact that Schnabel had grown up during the Cold War period, and it was commonplace to find just how much Communist ideals were rejected. Schnabel was also part of the Neo Expressionist movement where artists would show their opinions on very hot, debatable topics such as Communism, Feminism, and Racism.
Due to the symbolic Communist Red found in a good portion of the painting, it is safe to conclude that the artist feels that Communism causes much grief in people’s lives. The grief is clearly shown in the couple’s expression. On a red background, the seem very discontent with each other and where their lives are headed. This discontent is represented by the broken plates that make up their very existence. And finally the gold chain is meant to be representative of the dictator being able to spend so much on things that are detrimental to the people, for example the mass amounts of wealth to keep the people shackled and suppressed.
The debatable topic as portrayed in this piece is the ideals of communism. Schnabel argues that its ideals are damaging to the people under its authority. Due to the time period in which the artist experienced, Schnabel’s opinion implies that Communism should be eradicated due to its effects.
Students should learn from the painting that expression is important and should not be restricted to a single medium such as acrylic paints. That, in itself, is contradicting the ideals of expression. Expression needs to be made using every single object available. And Schnabel represents this ideal by using smashed plates as a medium in order to convey meaning and emotion. Students should be able to express themselves as freely as possible. In Schnabel’s case, using such a medium as plates was very untraditional. Yet so was Cubism, when Picasso came around. Schnabel even refers to himself as the closest thing to Picasso because he is willing to express himself as best as he knows how, and is able to do so freely as he offers his pieces to be scrutinized by the world’s eye. Students should have conversations about how they can express themselves in revolutionary ways the way Schnabel did, and how they can voice their opinions through art.
The painting implies that we have a background knowledge on what the most prominent aspects of this painting represent. In this case, the massive amounts of red stand for communism and we should know its history the role it has played throughout this history. With this knowledge in mind, Schabel inserts symbols that represent his opinions on the subject, such as the discontent couple, the broken plates, and the golden shackles.
Today’s society values individualism and creativity in expression. For example, whenever a musician releases a song and it sounds too much like the last, we regard the musician as being a hack. Yet when something comes out that we’ve never heard before, such as the new age sound from the artists of Zedd and Skrillex, which has created a completely new and creative genre, we rejoice. Claudio al Mandrione is able to check every box in the category of individualism and creativity as it uses a medium that no one has seen before, and because of it’s creative use of objects and symbols, it is appraised the world over.