This catalogue of recent works by renowned Italian painter Francesco Clemente proves that his oeuvre has only grown richer and more complex over the years. The sumptuous, transcendent works presented here are driven in particular by Clemente's instincts about the use of color - in some he limits himself to warm oranges and greens, creating a soft, sensuous atmosphere that reflects his lifelong love of India and tantrism. In other works here, however - namely the "grisaille self-portraits" - there is an emphasis on black that recalls classic Western painters like Titian and Rembrandt, and points to darker and more intimate areas of the self. It is through this meeting and mixture of the aesthetic languages and prophecies of East and West that Clemente has produced his best work, and the work in this monograph testifies to the pleasures of art that ignores boundaries in its investigation into the psychological and spiritual essence of life.
Francesco Clemente, who enlivened the New York art scene in the 1980s along with a handful of other image-conscious Italians, including Sandra Chia, is said to be a reclusive artist who guards his privacy, but this richly informative book makes that assertion difficult to believe. Clemente himself has always offered a good deal of autobiography to his viewers, with works that have explored his own visage (and other parts) with relentless interest and introspection. And now comes Francesco Clemente
, filled with intimate pictures shot by his friend Luca Babini in Clemente studios from New York to New Mexico to Naples. Packed to bursting, the photographs show Clemente working away, with wife, kids, and dogs in tow. With its pictorial richness--paint-spattered floors, trampled rags, stacked canvases, raw-edged, unstretched paintings stapled to huge walls, encrusted studio shoes, and scores of photographs of works in progress--this book will be devoured by other artists, who will turn the pages in a lather of envy, not necessarily for Clemente's fame and success, but for the huge windows and high ceilings of his various work spaces.
Clemente is a fecund artist, and there are many wonderful shots of his art--whole walls and tables full of it--that make a succinct statement correlating productivity and achievement. Clemente has contributed a kind of prose poem for the first part of the book, in which he discusses being a painter, and there is also a rambling essay by art writer Rene Ricard on artists' studios from ancient Egypt to the Renaissance. But the pictures are the point of this book, and they handsomely reward the reader's attention. They constitute an invitation to spend time--years, in fact--with a painter whose inventiveness, ambition, and style have made him one of the most successful of his time. --Peggy Moorman