Francesco Clemente: Pastels
Lévy Gorvy, London
December 12, 2019 - February 15, 2020
Francesco Clemente: Pastels (2019–20) at Lévy Gorvy, London, featured Clemente’s extraordinary creative synthesis of diverse aesthetic, cultural, and spiritual traditions. Curated by architect Bill Katz, a long-time friend of the artist, the exhibition presented Clemente’s expressions of the body and mind through his extended commitment to the medium. Clemente often turns to pastels to develop his eclectic visions of physical and metaphysical subjects. The medium is well-suited to the intensity of these works on paper through their brilliantly saturated color, directness of line, and the autographic immediacy in the artist’s application. Over the past four decades, he has developed polymorphic, unabashedly sexual imagery that invokes perennial cycles of life and death.
Clemente visualizes humanity in figurative and mythological terms, employing metaphor to bridge individual differences and reveal intercultural aspects of our existence. Opposed to regarding identity as fixed, he portrays the self as both embodied and protean. From the anatomical transfigurations of Navel (1981) and Naso (1983) to the cosmological and animalistic imagery in the Self-Portraits in White, Red, and Black (2008), his self-portraits evidence the constant evolution of mental, physical, and spiritual states. By doing so, they present the artist grounded in the corporal form of his body and engaged in a tireless creative search for meaning.
Additional highlights from the exhibition include Clemente’s striking series of New York Muses (1993) and pastel portraits of his collaborators Allen Ginsberg and Michael McClure. He developed the resonance of poetry across his work in the recent Un Chant d’Amour series (2015), which takes inspiration from Jean Genet’s language and imagery.