Starkly bright and rejuvenating, the warm afternoon sunlight pours into the 32 Edgewood Gallery from all sides. The luminous interior at once belongs to the realm of the ordinary and the divine.
In "Clemente > Brazil > Yale" artist Francesco Clemente gives us entrance into the collective conscious of one of South America's most dynamic countries. Clemente's observations of daily life, Roman Catholicism, and Candomble tradition gathered over the course of his several visits to Brazil are vividly presented in the exhibition.
The artist has skillfully manipulated these three cultural influences, weaving them into a tapestry that tells the rich histories of Brazil. The motif of unification takes explicit form in many of these works.
In The Ship of Time (below), a woven chain-link fence. In Actors of the Terreiro XI, an ornate golden rope cinched about a waist. In The Hunter's Dream, a gray rope weaving in-and-out of a button.
The thirty pieces comprising this exhibition—12 in oil, 18 in watercolor—have a certain ethereality to them: such fragile representations given the weighty concepts therein. The translucency of the watercolor might at first seem to suggest lack of substance, yet it is that very lack that seems to lend these works their profoundness.
In addition to new essences from Brazil, Clemente’s work is flavored deeply of reminisce. His strokes conjure up such visions as illustrations from the Kama Sutra, and the improbable landscapes of Giorgio de Chirico. During previous visits to India, Clemente spent several years focusing his art through the lens of Tantric tradition, exploring how corporeality—and by extension, sexuality—comes to inform selfhood and being. Sword (below) is a striking balance of erotic and surrealist traditions: a gleaming dagger violently pierces a conch shell, sitting impossibly upright atop a pool of lush red fabric. One can’t help but think of the vulnerable, pink conch in Cézanne’s The Black Clock (1869).
Though his work has evolved through the decades, the artist seems in constant meditation with the nature of consciousness and the self.
In an interview with Pamela Kort of the University of Zurich, the artist offers a glimpse into his meditations: "Each one of us is a complete parable that counts for the entire universe, so one’s individual experience is enough to be source material for anything that needs to be known” (p. 8). Clemente’s time in Brazil, just as in any other place, furthers his belief in the human state comprising of the individual, the communal, and the universal. In “Clemente > Brazil > Yale,” the artist considers each state as part of a tri-partite whole, an eternal golden braid.
“Clemente > Brazil > Yale”
Yale School of Art, 32 Edgewood Gallery, New Haven
1 April – 2 June 2013
"Francesco Clemente in Conversation with Pamela Kort." Interview by Pamela Kort. Schirn Kunsthalle [Franfurt] 26 Mar. 2011.