deitch projects may 2009, francesco clemente, a history of the heart in three rainbows

i went to see this last year on a gorgeous–amazingly, rain-free–spring day in soho over at deitch and it is easily one of the most beautiful projects i’ve ever seen in person.  francesco clemente i love, unconditionally.  i know that he has weathered a lot of pejorative comments about being a ny darling, and one of the elite and a cool kid, etc, but screw that.  he makes mythical, inspired tableaux, many in watercolor which makes me love him even more for its temperamental nature (and it’s one of my favorite media in which to work, too) and ethereality….so what if he is one of the archetypal nyc art-scene cool kids; he is a beautiful man with a beautiful family of creatives, has traveled widely and been touched deeply by the mysticism he’s experienced and embraced from places like india, and makes humanistic, passionate, spiritual works which show man in all his vulgar, amazing, interesting, clumsy, fragmented glory.  “hold beauty,” and he does, and shares.  so many revel in the base while he makes everything he touches sensual and mythical and suffused with light and color.  screw the critics.

i paced back and forth around the gallery a few times and then just sat on the steps for as long as i could sit still and let myself be surrounded by the temporary gift of that watery world on the walls.  what makes people the most uncomfortable and snide about his art is his sincerity and that says a lot more about the critics than his talent and/or motivation.

from the pamphlet:

“A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows, a monumental suite of large-scale watercolor paintings by Francesco Clemente, will be presented at Deitch Projects’s Wooster Street gallery in May. The paintings will wrap around the perimeter of the gallery, creating an atmosphere of contemplation and ritual. The work continues the artist’s ongoing project of transforming spiritual life experience into art. The lightness of the rainbow represents a breakthrough from the darkness, from the long night of the artist’s darker palette.

For Clemente, the rainbow is a bridge, a structure to bring things together, like religion in its original sense. The rainbow represents the necessity to connect different worlds. The translucence of the rainbow connects with the translucence of watercolor. The rainbow unmasks the nature of light and watercolor brings the light out of paper. In watercolor, the artist does not build the highlights – they are the parts the artist does not touch. The light is behind the paint.

The artist considers his paintings to be ritual implements. They function as mnemonics, keys to remembering the practice of daily ritual. The harlequin that appears in the narrative is an icon of the fragmentation of self, a surrogate for the artist and a link to man’s primeval nature. The artist notes that the earliest image of a harlequin is a man covered in leaves. The webs, cages and fences in the paintings may mean confinement, but they also connote the interrelationship of all things, and ultimately, freedom.”


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