A very personal project that brings together a group of forty recent works—twelve oil paintings
, twenty ink drawings
and eight pastels—dedicated to his companion and muse, Alba, on the occasion of their fortieth wedding anniversary. Includes two original poems
by Enrique Juncosa & Vincent Katz
When Francesco Clemente met Alba Primiceri in the mid-seventies, after returning from his first visit to India, they were both living in Rome, where he had made his first forays as a painter and she was well known as an actress in avant-garde theatre. They have spent long periods together in Chennai (formerly Madras), where he set up a studio, and since then he has worked there in collaboration with local artisans. He continued with his declared aim of reconciling European cultural tradition with eastern spiritual vision when he and his family relocated to New York in 1981.
In the cultural context of New York in the mid-eighties and early nineties, Clemente came into contact with writers and visual artists who enriched his creative perspectives, and these friendships are directly echoed in his subsequent work. For some of these artists, Alba became an icon of beauty and mystery, ambiguity and sophistication, as seen in the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe
, Andy Warhol, David Seidner, and Bruce Weber, and in the painting of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel
, and Kenny Scharf. Alex Katz
has also painted his friend's wife on several occasions, fascinated above all by her style and the elegance of her gestures.
Yet it is the portraits of her by Francesco Clemente that offer the most interesting glimpses of Alba's personality and, by extension, the artist's own—he has stated that all artists see themselves in their muse. He has also often included himself in portraits together with her, fusing both faces into a single image. One of the best-known until now may be the picture that shows her reclining in a red dress with an Indian bracelet, which was used as the image for his exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York in 1999.
In most of the portraits in this exhibition, Alba is wearing hats that seem to belong to ancient, exotic civilisations or religions, and she is also shown smoking—the cigarette as a distinctive feature reminds us of the poem “Alba's roach” by Vincent Katz, which is included in the volume that appears in conjunction with this project, along with a poem by Enrique Juncosa. There are also double representations, disparate reflections, as if two separate moments or realities of a single identity were captured in a mirror. In all of them, the artist projects himself at the same time as he imagines or remembers all the layers, all the Albas that compose the complex idea of his eternal beloved.
Published on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition at Galería Javier López & Fer Francés, Madrid, from May 24 to September 6, 2017.
The oeuvre of the Italian contemporary artist Francesco Clemente (born 1952, Napoli, lives and works in New York) spans over four decades and has achieved international acclaim. Clemente is a major figure of the transavantgarde
movement. Throughout the 1970s he exhibited works that reflected his interest in the contemplative traditions of India, where he lived for several years.
In 1981 Clemente moved to New York with his wife, Alba, and their four children. His paintings, drawings, prints and illustrated books were featured in shows at numerous international venues including the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1983); the Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1984); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1985); the Art Institute of Chicago (1987); and the Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1988).
Through the 1990s, surveys of his work were exhibited by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1990); the Royal Academy of the Arts, London (1990); the Pompidou Center, Paris (1994); and the Sezon Museum, Tokyo (1994). In 1999/2000, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Guggenheim Bilbao organised a major retrospective of Clemente's work.
Predominantly interested in themes of both religion and spirituality, Clemente's work for the most part depicts both the human form (in its entirety or metamorphosing between human and animal) or symbolic motifs.
More recently, his works were exhibited by the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2004); The Rose Art Museum, Massachusetts (2004); Museo Maxxi, Rome (2006); Museo MADRE, Naples (2009); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2011), Uffizi Gallery, Florence (2011); Palazzo Sant'Elia, Palermo (2013) and The Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2014-2015).
He has participated in numerous collaborative projects, painting with Jean-Michel Basquiat andAndy Warhol
, and illuminating poetry by Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, John Wieners, Rene Ricard
and Derek Walcott. Clemente is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.