Francesco Clemente: Watercolors
Lévy Gorvy, New York
August 17 - October 1, 2020
Francesco Clemente: Watercolors (2020) was an exhibition that surveyed three decades of the artist’s work in the medium. The presentation followed the recent Francesco Clemente: Pastels at the gallery’s London location. Bill Katz, a close friend of the artist, curated both exhibitions to highlight and celebrate Clemente’s mastery of the visual effects of his materials and the depth of physical and metaphysical concerns that inform his artistic practice. On view at Lévy Gorvy’s New York space, Francesco Clemente: Watercolors featured many previously unexhibited works.
Clemente experiments widely with various media. Suited to his famously nomadic lifestyle, watercolor took a prominent role early in the artist’s career. In the 1970s, he began traveling extensively—particularly throughout India, where he immersed himself in the country’s aesthetic traditions. Watercolors, pastels, and handmade paper became key tools, light and portable, in capturing his experiences. Clemente emphasized the ability of watercolor to bleed into paper and generate veils of semi-transparent color.
Clemente nurtured the development of his watercolor practice in New York, realizing images that mixed the personal and the spiritual, recognizable figures and abstract forms. He has developed a powerful vocabulary of images and symbols, many of which reappear throughout his oeuvre, as seen in Symmetry (1991) and Chain (1996), two watercolors from his Book of the Sea series. At the core of Clemente’s artistic project was the need to confront the suggestiveness of reality—the fantasies, visions, and stories human beings have historically fostered into myths. This tendency is evident in such recent watercolors as A Story Well Told (2013) and Notturno Indiano (2019), series that were inspired by the myth of Apollo and Daphne and a novella by Antonio Tabucchi, respectively.