The Italian-born painter Francesco Clemente came to prominence in the mid-1970s when intensely subjective yet universal themes filtered into his skewed self-portraiture, witty wordplay and gestural figuration. This volume compiles a decade’s worth of works on paper from those early days, many of which were inspired by Italy’s political crisis at the time or fellow artists Alighiero Boetti and Luigi Ontani.
The Italian artists of the 1970s were working in the context of the “terrorist generation.” There was a crisis of capitalism and of Western societal values–both of which informed such major ideas in Clemente’s early work as “fragmentation of self” and the “refutation of reason.” Suddenly the body became a territory for artistic exploration; it became a border and led to the idea of travel. Here Clemente learned to trust geography over history, and his highly personal symbolism of the time bears proof of an itinerant life spent between homes in Madras (current-day Chennai, India), New York and Rome, with many trips to Dehli, Srinagar and various areas of Afghanistan mixed in.
Published on the occasion of Clemente’s recent exhibition at New York’s Deitch Projects, this deluxe volume highlights the artist’s concerns with process and concept–not technical perfection–and his obsession with paper’s ephemeral vulnerability. Hints of Clemente’s later forays into Surrealism and deep human psychology are also evident, and provide an essential view of the beginning of a masterful career.