Francesco Clemente


(Italian, b. 1952)

Francesco Clemente, Neopolitan by birth, began painting at the age of 12 after seeing a Velasquez at the Prado. As an undergraduate, he studied in Rome at the Sapienza. He enrolled for architecture but never completed the program; rather, he came in contact with the contemporary arts scene and the likes of Twombly, Boetti, and Ontani.

He left college in the early 70s to travel to India and by the late 70s departed for the United States via Japan. He has taken influences form all of these places into his work, to this day claiming a particular affinity for India. He arrived in New York in 1980, where he quickly fell into the creative world of the downtown scene and spent time with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In short order, he went on to become an important figure in the Italian Transvanguardia movement of the 80s, a shift in the geist characterized by a rejection of formalism and conceptualism and a return to figuration and symbolism. Though he became closely associated with the arte povera movement he ultimately found that he preferred to work on paper.

Today he is best known for his works in gauche and aquarelle and is widely regarded as one of the finest watercolorists alive. He produces ink drawings of dreams and memories, and portraits— that emerge as surreal vignettes and monumental images; within his work there is deep investment in boredom, vagueness, and the act of waiting as a source of impetus. Unafraid to reference or not reference, he pulls heavily from imagery surrounding the body as well as the arcane, surreal, and symbolic.

His work is widely shown— it may be glimpsed anywhere from the Venice Biennial, to art fairs, and museum or gallery walls.

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