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Palimpsest: Deutsche Bank Foundation sponsors Francesco Clemente at the Schirn


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Deutsche Bank Foundation sponsors Francesco Clemente at the Schirn

Francesco Clemente, one of the most distinctive representatives of new figurative painting, made his international breakthrough in the 1980s. In the first large solo exhibition of the artist's work in Germany for more than 25 years, the Schirm Kunsthalle is showing a selection of his works. The show is being sponsored by the Deutsche Bank Foundation.

Regarding his work, Francesco Clemente has said: "The original impulse in my life as an artist was to write and to break from writing into image." The Deutsche Bank Foundation-sponsored exhibition Francesco Clemente. Palimpsest at the Schirn in Frankfurt sheds light on this inspiration with approximately 40 works, primarily large in scale, made between 1978 and 2011. The motif of the palimpsest-ancient manuscripts that were written on and then cleaned through scraping or washing to be used once again-can be seen as a symbol for Clemente's artistic development. Born in 1952 into an aristocratic Neapolitan family, he has traveled around the world since the beginning of his career and today lives in Italy, the United States, and India.

Clemente's work combines elements from a wide variety of cultures, mythologies, philosophies, and religions; he uses a broad spectrum of mediums ranging from pastel, fresco, and oil to gouache and watercolor. Many of his works resemble dreamlike visions imbued with eroticism and spirituality. Together with Enzo Cucchi and Mimmo Paladino, Clemente was part of the Italian Transavanguardia movement of the late 1970s. Forming one of the most important, postmodernist groups, its members questioned the formal language and content of Minimalism and Conceptual art and instead worked with traditional art forms such as painting and drawing to explore figuration and expressive color schemes.

Francesco Clemente. Palimpsest shows both how difficult it is to relegate Clemente to this particular phase in his career and how multifaceted his work remains to this day. References to language take on a key role: Clemente published a collection of poems at age 12, after which he began studying Greek and Latin. When he turned to art in the mid-1970s, he spent months reading religious and spiritual texts in the library of the Theosophical Society in Madras, India.

Clemente visited New York for the first time in 1980. Soon after arriving he began to collaborate with such writers as Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley. In 1981 - at the same time the so-called death of painting was being fervently proclaimed by art critics - Clemente decided to explore even more intensively the possibilities of this medium. Part of this activity resulted in his collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. His non-conventional techniques of painting as well as his openness to collaborating with other artists contributed to Clemente rapidly becoming a rising star of the international art scene.

In seeing Clemente's visual language in the Frankfurt show, viewers embark on a journey of associations that begins with the gigantic watercolors of the series A History of the Heart in Three Rainbow (2009) and ends with 20 key works that chart his oeuvre chronologically, from the early period and his 1980s collaborations with Basquiat and Warhol to his current works. The exhibition traces the creative processes of a brilliant and unique nomad for whom, as he says himself, art is the "last oral tradition alive in the West."

Francesco Clemente. Palimpsest
June 8 - September 4, 2011
Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt

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