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 Francesco Clemente  (1952 - )

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Lived/Active: New York / Italy      Known for: mod figure, abstraction, graphics

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Ad Code: 2
Francesco Clemente
from Auction House Records.
Experience of Love
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following was written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California:

Francesco Clemente was born in Naples, Italy, the only child born to prosperous parents.  His father was a judge, and he recalls his upbringing as "solitary".  A self-taught painter, he began making art at the age of eight and became involved with contemporary art in Rome in the late 1960s.  In 1970 he moved to Rome to study architecture, then left school and spent much of the decade traveling in  India and Afghanistan with friend and early mentor Alighiero Boetti, an artist associated with the Arte Povera movement and Alba Primicieri, whom he subsequently married.  Much of his time in the 70s was spent studying the occult and a wide range of philosophies.  Cy Twombly and Joseph Beuys were also influences on him during those years.  When he was very young, however, Clemente never aped the artists he admired, and he arrived at a relatively mature style when barely out of his teens.  At the age of twenty he began to regularly exhibit in Europe and he had his first New York show in 1980.

Clemente has a prodigious talent. He wields a command of pictorial conventions that is altogether exceptional.  Gifted with a facility of execution rare in his generation, Clemente has put his talent at the service of a metamorphic sensibility.  In his work, the physiological and the dreamlike merge.

Clemente divides his time between New York, Madras and his native Italy. A sexual "commuter" as much as he is a geographic nomad, his confusion of sexual preference and sexual function are deliberate and complete.  His wife, Alba, is a dark-haired strikingly dramatic woman who once acted with avant-garde theatre groups in Rome.  They have four children.  Alex Katz is a close friend; his is one of many watercolor portraits Clemente has been doing of people he likes.

Clemente's art is everywhere keyed to this awareness of fragility and metamorphosis.  His chosen materials are at extremes of brittleness or fluidity.  The surfaces of his oils are scrofulous; the contours of his ink drawings crackle and splinter; his watercolors bleed and the atomized pigments of his pastels on the page.  Clemente is a compulsive worker who turns out a torrential river of art.  Among the mediums he's mastered: drawing, painting, pastels, etching, photography, mosaic, sculpture and Indian miniatures

Sources include:
Robert Storr in Art in America, November 1987 
Kristine McKenna, The Artist of Our Time, in the Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1990 
Gargoyles, Goddesses and Faces in the Crowd  by Paul Gardner, ARTnews, March 1985
Prints From the Alchemist's Laboratory by Don Hawthorne, ARTnews, Frebruary 1986
Realm of the Senses by Robert Storr in Art in America, November 1987

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Naples, Italy, he has been labelled a Neo-Expressionist from the time he exhibited with that group at the Venice Biennale in 1980 but also has transcended that definition to become one of the best known of the contemporary artists.

Much of his work makes people uncomfortable because it focuses on sexual aberrations, body parts and orifices. However, he links his artistic expression to Hinduism and the close relationship between filth and purity.

He was raised in a cultured atmosphere of the classics and traditional approaches to the arts, but as an artist, he reflected the burgeoning Neo-Expressionist movement in watercolor, oil and pastels.

He lived in Naples until he was eighteen and then studied architecture at the University of Rome before moving to New York City in 1981. However, he also paints regularly in India and Italy. In addition to the 1980 Venice Biennale, he has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The first retrospective of his work is at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York from October 1999 to January 2000.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Francesco Clemente is also mentioned in these AskART essays:

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