Archives for posts with tag: Francesco Clemente

Nicolas Bourriaud – Post production and Eclecticism
The quality of the work depends on the trajectory it describes in the cultural landscape. It constructs a linkage between forms, signs, and images.

In an essay publised in 1987, “Historisation ou intention: le retour d’un vieux debat (Historicization or Intention: The return of an old debate), Yve-Alain Bois engaged in a critical analysis of postmodern eclecticism such as it was manifested in the works of the European neo-expressionists and painters such as Julian Schnabel and David Salle. Bois summed up these artists’ positions as such: Being freed from history, they might have recourse to history as a sort of entertainment, treating it as a space of pure irresponsibility. Everything from now on had the same meaning for them, the same value. In the early eighties, the trans-avant-garde struggled with a logic of bric-a-brac and the flattening of cultural values in a sort of international style that blended Giorgio de Chirico and Joseph Bueys, Jackson Pollock and Alberto Savinio, completely indifferent to the content of their works and their respective historical positions. At around the same time, Achille Bonita Oliva supported the trans-avant-garde artists in the name of a “cynical ideology of the traitor,” according to which the artist would be a nomad circulating as he pleased through all periods and styles, like a vagabond digging through a dump in search of something to carry away. This is precisely the problem: under the brush of a Schnabel or an Enzo Cucchi, the history of art is like a giant thrash can of hollow forms, cut off from their meaning in favor of a cult of the artist/demiurge/salvager under the tutelary figure of Picasso. In this vast enterprise of the reification of forms, the metamorphosis of the gods finds kinship with the museum without walls. Such an art of citation, practised by the neo-fauves, reduces history to the value of merchandise. We are then very close to the “equivalence of everything, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the insignificant and the distinctive” which Flaubert made the theme of his last novel, and whose coming he feared in Scenarios pour Bouvard et Pecuchet.

Mimo Paladino

Mimmo Paladino – Miracolo – 1994

The years between 1978 and 1980 – represented by monochromatic paintings with strong colours forming a backdrop for geometrical structures – constitute a period of transition towards a renewed interest in figurative painting, the retrieval of traditional forms, the subjectivity of creative action and inspiration from ancient and recent history. Because of his choice of this field, Achille Bonito Oliva invited him to exhibit, together with Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, Sandro Chia and Nicola de Maria, in the Aperto 80 section of the 29th Venice Biennale in 1980. This marked the birth of the Transavanguardia movement, which sought to affirm a return of art to painting after the conceptual, minimalist and performative currents of the previous decade.

Enzo Cucchi

Enzo Cucchi – Sant’Agostino – 1988

You cannot come to painting by a conceptual path […]. You have to feel the weight, the substance of matter, coming from such a distant place … It’s a habit you can’t get rid of, an absurd vice, like a mirror in the morning. (E. Cucchi, 2007)

Born at Morro d’Alba, in the province of Ancona, on November 14, 1949. As a boy he worked as an assistant to book and picture restorers and approached painting as an autodidact, winning a number of prizes. His initial interest, however, lay in writing. He met the art critic Achille Bonito Oliva in the circle of the publisher La Nuova Foglio of Macerata, which published his collection Il veleno è stato sollevato e trasportato (1976). In the mid-seventies he often visited Rome, where he came to know Sandro Chia and Francesco Clemente, with whom he returned to painting. In 1977 he exhibited his drawings at the Incontri internazionali d’Arte. In 1980 he was invited by Bonito Oliva to the 39th Venice Biennale among representatives of the Italian Transavanguardia. From this period he was present in the major international exhibitions. In 1984 he moved to Rome. With a vocabulary based on short-circuiting the narrative power of the sign and the seduction of pigment, Cucchi traverses myth, art history, literature and the present with a visionary gaze, producing compositions of great symbolic intensity. Starting from the Vitebsk/Harar series of 1984 the artist experimented with the use of extra-pictorial surfaces and the insertion of objects and materials as supports or reinforcements of the painted image, attracting the interest of institutions like the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, which in 1986 organized his solo exhibition. His numerous works of a public character produced since the late eighties grew out of the urge to test the relevance of his vocabulary through different techniques, enabling him to measure himself against the complexity of urban space or individual cultural contexts. Examples are his permanent sculptures at the Bruglinger Park in Basel (1984), the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art at Humlebaek (1985, Copenhagen), the fountain in the garden of the Museo Pecci in Prato (1988) and the Fountain of Italy at the entrance to York University in Toronto (1993), monumental works in ceramics for the Ala Mazzoniana of Termini Station in Rome, those for the Salvador Rosa Station (2002) in the Naples subway, mosaics for the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv (1999), for the audience chamber in the new courthouse in Pescara and for the MACRO museum in Rome (2001). His concern for interactions between different disciplines have also inspired numerous collaborative works: from the conception of publishing projects with Mendini and Ettore Sottsass (I Disuguali) to stage sets for theatrical works, including Tosca at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome in 1992 and the design of the curtain of La Fenice theater in Senigallia (1996), the frescoes of the Cappella di Monte Tamaro (Lugano) designed by Mario Botta (1992-94) and his work in the new church of Foligno designed by Massimilaino Fuksas (2009). He lives and works in Rome and Ancona.

Francesco Clemente


 Mirror 1996

Born Napoli 1952

Untitled 1980

Asking Price: $10,000 USD
New Listing
Size : 7.09 x 4.73 in
Size : 18.01 x 12.01 cm
Edition #: Original
Certificate of Guarantee: Art Brokerage
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Provenance & Extra Info: Not signed but published in the journal Frigidaire.
Asking Price: $10,000 USD

[…] sitting in Madras at the Theosophical Society for several years, I was reading Indian authors who were familiar with the writings of Emerson, of Thoreau. So in India the prophets of America were already calling. […] I still feel that for a painter the task is to put an object into the world that is not going to be an answer to anything. It’s going to be a reality of its own. […] The nature of painting is to redeem an undercurrent of sadness. (F. Clemente, 2003)

Francesco Clemente was born in Naples on March 23, 1952. After finishing high school he became a self-taught painter and a writer of poems. In 1970 he moved to Rome to attend the Faculty of Architecture, but he soon left it to dedicate himself to the artistic activity, making friends with Cy Twombly and Alighiero Boetti. With the latter, in particular, he crossed Afghanistan on foot in 1974. In the same year he met Joseph Beuys, with whom he shared an interest for Anthroposophy. Looking for new stimuli, in 1976-77 he lived in Madras, India – which he had first visited in 1973 – where he opened a studio. In addition to the interest for theosophical texts and Hindu culture he soon developed an interest for local artisanal cultures, which led him to execute the Pinxit series (1980–81) and the illustrations for the collection of volumes Selected Poems, 1958-1984 curated by Raymond Foye (1986). Although drawing remained his favourite mean of expression, he experimented with different techniques, including oil painting, mosaic, fresco, etching, sculpture. His works were structured as a travel journal or an intimate journal, with abstract elements, images, his self-portrait, decorative suggestions and symbols borrowed from oriental art, classical antiquity and the popular culture of cinema and television; all these features blended together and lent an air of sexuality, myth, spirituality, dream to the work. In 1979 he was numbered by Achille Bonito Oliva among the exponents of Transavantgarde – which aimed at reaffirming manual skills in art after the conceptual and performative trends of the previous century – and exhibited at the 39th Venice Biennial. The following year he moved to New York, where he studied Sanskrit and executed the first series of large-format paintings, The Fourteen Stations, that was displayed in 1983 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery of London. At the same time he collaborated with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat and in 1985 he executed the murals for the Palladium nightclub (demolished). In the 1990s he became fascinated by Jamaica and opened a studio in New Mexico, where he learned a peculiar wax fresco technique. He is the author of the paintings and drawings executed by the protagonist of the film Paradise Lost directed in 1998 by Alfonso Cuarón and inspired by Charles Dickens’s novel, Gxpereat Ectations. In 1999 the Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York dedicated a big retrospective exhibition to him, which also featured his famous collaboration works of the 1980s. In 2000 he executed the mural and the lampshades for the new Hudson Hotel of New York. After the anthological exhibition organized in 2003 by the National Museum of Naples, in 2004 he executed a site-specific work for the MADRE museum, commissioned by Fondazione Donna Regina, Ab Ovo: a floor with zoomorphic insertions, which renewed the tradition of ancient majolicas of the Campania Region. Two years later at the MAXXI in Rome he presented recent works from the Tandoori series (2003), which took its cue from Indian iconography and pastels of 2006 inspired by Christian art. He works in Madras and New York.

Sandro Chia

Amongst his most important personal shows are exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam (1983), the Metropolitan Museum of New York (1984), the National Galerie of Berlin (1984, 1992), the Museum of Modern Art of Paris (1984); the museums of Dusseldorf (1984), Antwerp (1989), Mexico City (1989); Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence (1991); the museums of Karlsruhe (1992), Palm Springs (1993), Villa Medici in Rome (1995); Palazzo Reale in Milan (1997), the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida (1997), the Galleria Civica of Siena (1997), the Galleria Civica in Trento (2000), the Museo d’Arte of Ravenna (2000); Palazzo Pitti and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Florence (2002); and most recently the Duomo of St. Agostino in Pietrasanta (2005).

In 2003, the Italian State acquired three important works of his for the permanent collection of the Italian Senate at Palazzo Madama, and in 2005 two monumental sculptures were acquired by the Province of Rome and placed in front of its headquarters in Via IV Novembre, Rome.

Today he lives between Miami, Rome and his Castello Romitorio wine-making estate in Montalcino, where he also follows the production of prestigious wines, amongst which the world-famous Brunello wine.

Interviewed by
Johan Falkman



in art + kulture, painting by — November 2, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Entering Clemente’s vast Broadway loft is like opening the gates to an old grave chamber in which time is dissolved; the invisible barriers that normally separate past and present, the feeling of then and now, are pulverized like old newsprint, leaving but a musty scent of decomposition, mixed with the smell of oil mediums, turpentine, and various toxins –cigarette smoke, dust and lacquered wood.

This Broadway loft, his studio, is the embodiment of Clemente’s sensitive response to life, to literature, to religion, philosophy and mysticism. This, in turn, echoes his yearning for the harmony created when balancing opposing elements and phenomena that are contained within the human constitution: the physical and the metaphysical intertwined. His latest series of paintings that are attached to the columns supporting the ceiling – huge canvases – deal primarily with physical and metaphysical bonding, received through mental and sexual interventions.
Clemente’s paintings deal with the self, a self defined by one’s sexual desires and the yearning for harmony, security and “protection,” as Clemente would term it, against the grain of society, and against Satan, as described by Blake: The unprolific and opaque whose realm of obscurity devoid people of their speech.

Johan Falkman: In your work from the early eighties one senses a feeling of alienation. There seems to be a dialogue – a silent lovemaking – between the two opposing sides of your inner self: the unhampered warrior and the unborn mystic. How would you describe these two sides of yourself and their relationship?
Francesco Clemente: I don’t know if I can describe any aspect of myself, but I can definitely look at the strategy of my own work and describe what that strategy has been. My goal has always been to treat what is harsh with tenderness and what is tender with harshness.

Could this be seen as a reversed love-relationship between the two opposites, or is there a silent war going on between the two aspects?
The proliferation of the self, the one splitting in two is the very source of any endeavor. It was described in the past by the word Symbolon. The original meaning of Symbolon is a broken coin that is split between two friends at the time of their separation. Thus the word Symbolon evokes a sense of longing.  This in turn can be seen as a metaphor for giving and receiving, penetrating and being penetrated, seeing and being seen, underlying themes that you will find in many images of my work.

My goal has always been to treat what is harsh with tenderness and what is tender with harshness.

In the painting “Unborn” you have depicted yourself asleep inside the body of a tiger. To me the tiger seems to represent uproar, strength and the offensive side of your personality. I also see it as a challenge to the surrounding world. Could you tell us about the tiger? Who is this creature that seems to protect your slumbering alter ego?
You neglect to mention that the tiger is in a cage (longer pause). A painting is always a meeting place of many stories and various emotional registers. Very often the excuse for a painting will come from something one heard. Like a poem. In this case I happen to remember what the poem was. It is written by Sandro Penna, a tormented and gentle bohemian figure in Rome during the 1950’s. The poem says:

I wish I lied asleep

In the center of the heart

Of the world I wish

I had never been born at all.
There is also an element of humor, I hope, in what I make. To declare yourself a tiger and then to declare yourself a tiger in a cage and to declare yourself as this urbane creature asleep in the heart of this inexpressible violence is a paradox. And a paradox is always key to sense.

Behind us is one of your later self-portraits that was exhibited in New York a few years ago; you are depicted inside the vagina – the painting makes one think of Courbet’s the origin of the World – and it appears as though you are finally allowing yourself to be delivered into world, having matured for close to 30 years. Is this a correct interpretation, or are you perhaps still encaged inside the tiger?
I don’t believe in maturity. There is always room for the next mistake. The focus of this work should rather be seen as dealing with the “gate” that separates the outside world from the inner-world. Actually, we don’t really know if we are being born or if we are being absorbed anew, in to the inner world. We are standing on a threshold, not sure in which direction the tide is taking us.

That’s a wonderful metaphor for life and death. Would you describe your relationship to death? What are your thoughts on death, and I don’t specifically speak of our physical death?
Death is really the impulse that has led me to returning, over and over again, to the self-portrait as a reflection on impermanence, the impermanence of the self rather then the continuation of the self.

Our impermanence is something most of us find hard to accept. Recognition of the fact seems to contradict our nature. You are not only talking about the impermanence of the flesh – our bodies – but you are talking about the impermanence of the self, the seizing of thought, feeling and awareness. To make this a primary issue in one’s work demands an acceptance of the way of nature that many find hard to reconcile with. It demands strength. How would you define strength?
Strength to me is the feminine side of the world in terms of adaptability. To be able to adapt to change is a feminine quality. The quality of movement, conferred to the rigidity of the male side.

So the male is weaker?
Balance is the outcome of movement not of stillness.

You have depicted Purgatory—hell—in several of your paintings; perhaps the “underworld” is a better term. Wouldn’t you say that hell is a place within you, to which you can retreat? Hell is generally perceived of as a place for the rejected, and according to your perception of Hell, it can offer acceptance to those alienated; it’s a place for the outcasts. Do you see yourself as an advocate for the rejected, for the outcasts, not embraced by society?
But who is the outcast? The outcast is a person who has been stripped of his means of expression. In that sense, we are all outcasts.

Who then, deprives us of our means of expression?
It is Satan, in the sense of the opaque. William Blake talked about Satan as the unprolific and the opaque. The social dynamics of Satan have no heads, no tails, no beginning and no end. They create this obscurity that deprives us of our speech.

You are embraced by the American art scene – viewed by many as an American icon – but also looked upon as the man who turned the development of art in the “wrong” direction. Why?
Maybe every new artist is initially rejected when he exposes new aspects of vulnerability, of fragility. This goes against the grain of product, and “product” as you know, is the respectable cipher of our time. Vulnerability and weakness are viewed with suspicion. On the other hand America is not only the birthplace of consumerism but also the land of great mystic poets from Whitman to Allen Ginsberg via Ezra Pound, all of them prophets of fragility.

Wouldn’t you say that your friend and collaborator Andy Warhol was then in fact an opponent of yours, going, as he did, with the grain of product?
For Warhol “product” was just subject matter, certainly not a formal solution.

You collaborated on several canvases with both Warhol and Basquiat. Did you grow and develop from this collaboration or did it minimize your true expression – your unique voice?
Since I am a believer in the multiplicity of the self I can easily include others in my endeavors without feeling threatened. I am already more than one person when I do what I do.

Your visualization of sexuality, an eerie combination of your physical desires and your inner vision of your sexual desires, creates an underworld fantasy. Would you explain this relationship?
There are many traditions that have adopted lovemaking as the metaphor of spiritual quest and spiritual fulfillment. It’s a tradition of image-making that has been there from the very beginning, starting in the East. But you don’t necessarily have to look at the East to find out that the flame of Heaven and flame of Hell are one and the same. It is just the interpretation of our perception that changes it. On a mundane level these images may question timidly the given classification and determination of sexual preferences and attitudes.

Are we happy with that?
There are countless occasions when we don’t know who we are and we don’t know what we want. There are countless emotions and feelings that have no name in our vocabulary. Paintings cannot give names to these experiences, but they can remind us that they exist and are legitimate.  Maybe what an artist does is to offer a path of expression to those willing to travel on it. Thought is not a weapon. It doesn’t fight. It doesn’t go in a straight line to break against the wall of dogmas defining our age. It just takes an oblique path around it.

Roberta Smith refers to Francesco Clemente as “genuinely starlike” [ “Clemente: Slouching Toward Anonymity,” Dec. 2 ] . That is about as correct as calling Christopher Columbus a hero. What they have in common is arrogance, self-absorption and theft. Their small talents exist only because of their “discoveries” of other cultures. This is an ideological continuation of the great American Manifest Destiny, i.e., take, use, destroy and justify whatever the Western world wants from the non-Western.

    Of all the art stars to emerge in the early 1980’s, Francesco Clemente may be the most genuinely starlike. His exotic handsomeness, his distinctive way of dressing and his quiet, self-contained manner added up to a charisma that seemed made to order for Neo-Expressionism and the unprecedented media attention it attracted. More to the point, in the early 80’s in particular, this Italian artist, who is now 38, was such a ubiquitous motif in his own art that when one met him in person, it was a little like running into a famous actor on the street.
    December 2, 1990
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