Francesco Clemente Exhibition Opening
The Brant Foundation November 11th, 2018
On November 11, 2018, Francesco Clemente’s exhibition Works 1978-2018 opened at The Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, CT. The exhibition will be on view through March 2019. Visit the exhibition page to schedule your visit!
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center is pleased to announce a survey of works by Francesco Clemente, on view from November 12, 2018 through March 2019. The exhibition brings together a concise but comprehensive selection spanning 40 years of the artist’s work including self-portraits and portraits, works on paper, frescoes, monumental oil and watercolor paintings, and one of the artist’s notable hand painted tents. Executed in Rome, New York, Taos, Varanasi, Jodhpur, Orissa, Pondicherry, and Madras, the works have traveled far and been dispersed among museum collections and art patrons. They now come together for Francesco Clemente: Works 1978–2018, each with its own story to tell. Non-chronological in nature, the exhibition interweaves threads that have been a constant in Clemente’s long-spanning oeuvre, and presents ideas and questions that persist throughout his various transformations in medium.
“Ideas divide, forms unite. In the search for form painters encounter beauty. If they are lucky,” says Clemente.
Francesco Clemente is a contemporary artist known for exploring metaphysical questions of spirituality, mysticism, and the nature of the self. Often erotic, and at times violent in its subject matter, Clemente’s lyrical, emotional approach is expressed by his unique sense of color. Strongly influenced by literature and poetry, Clemente is a poet in his own right, with a vast lexicon of symbolic and metaphorical imagery that expands and transforms to tell an open-ended story.
The Italian-born artist educated himself in the library of the Theosophical Society in Chennai (formerly Madras), India, where he studied Sanskrit and became acquainted with Hindu and Buddhist literature. Fascinated by the local culture and craftsmanship, he learned from and worked together with Indian papermakers, miniature painters, and sign painters.
During this time, Clemente created hundreds of works on paper in various sizes, and established his practice of working in series. One such series included in this exhibition is the Pondicherry Pastels (1979– 80), a group of 82 small works on paper depicting his daily life in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The exhibition will also feature Clemente’s definitive series, The Red Book (1989), created during the artist’s time in Orissa during this period. The series comprises 18 watercolors on handmade paper, celebrating the permanence of female power Clemente witnessed in the Indian and Tantric traditions.
Throughout his life, Clemente has returned to the theme of self-portraiture. The artist has portrayed himself as an ageless presence, at times twisted in difficult and improbable positions, at others seated peacefully in contemplation. Rejecting a psychological reading of his self-portraits, Clemente sees them as a meditation on the Buddhist view of the self as “continuity of discontinuity.” Francesco Clemente: Works 1978–2018 will include Self Portrait with Bird (1980) alongside portraits of Clemente’s artist and poet friends.
His most recent work includes a series of paintings on canvas (2015-16) featuring hearts and white flags, two of which are included in the exhibition. In one, Clemente embraces the white flag as a symbol of surrender as it pierces a striking image of a heart being picked apart, or maybe being restored to its integrity, by a flock of sparrows. In the second, a white flag rises from a sinking boat filled with hearts and surrounded by more boats carrying children’s toys, a Noah’s ark of innocence and love lost.
In addition to the recent flag works, The Brant Foundation will install a 12-foot by 18-foot tent made in 2013, fabricated in India by local tentmakers, with the inside walls and ceiling painted by Clemente. Each of Clemente’s tents is an inhabitable painting, which may be entered and experienced in the way of a contemporary chapel.
The tent on view will be surrounded by 15 of the artist’s recent watercolors painted in collaboration with miniature painters in Jodhpur. One set evokes a narrative of creation and origin in the form of an abstract, primeval egg surrounded by people, angels, animals, forests and cities painted in gold on blue in traditional miniature styles. Another set features a recurring image of a theater stage, red and pink curtains framing scenarios of fragility, chaos and loss, depicted in sensual and fluid colors.
About the Artist:
Francesco Clemente is a contemporary artist who is known for exploring metaphysical questions of spirituality, mysticism, and the nature of the self. Often erotic, and at times violent in its subject matter, Clemente’s lyrical, emotional approach is expressed by his unique sense of color. Strongly influenced by literature and poetry, Clemente is a poet in his own right, with a vast lexicon of symbolic and metaphorical imagery that expands and transforms to tell an open-ended story.