Francesco Clemente’s nomadism inflects many aspects of his practice: The artist divides his time between New York, New Mexico, and India, drawing inspiration from the cultural histories of these places as well as from his native Italy. Likewise, he has traversed movements over the course of his four-decade career, having been linked to the Italian Transavanguardia group that emerged in the late 1970s as well as New York’s concurrent neo-expressionism. Both Clemente’s life and work have long been invested in fluidity and indeterminacy, and he has actively resisted participating in any social order. Informed by such diverse practices as Beat poetry, the Tantra traditions of India and Tibet, the ritualism of Joseph Beuys, and Greco-Roman art, Clemente has forged a singular career that seeks intercultural resonance. In works whose poetic intensity has found form in paintings, works on paper, frescoes, photography, book arts, and installations, he regularly turns to portraiture and self-portraiture, employing metaphor and symbolism to consider the nature of the self. Commingling references that are anatomical, botanical, art historical, and mythical, Clemente addresses various dualities that plague philosophy: mind and body, freedom and constraint, part and whole. He approaches painting as a process in which he must wait for his mind and materials to arrive at narrative order together.
Text courtesy Lévy Gorvy.