弗朗切斯科 • 克莱门特1952年出生于意大利那不勒斯，他被广泛认为是过去40年里最具象征意义的当代艺术家，他通过永恒性的标志，神话，文化和哲学创立了独一无二的 图形语言。艺术家在创作媒介的选择—油画、壁画、水彩、蜡笔画、拼贴与水粉画—以及作品主题上的多样性都深受着他游牧民般的艺术生活的影响。
从20世纪70年代早期开始，艺术家便不断往来意大利与印度两国旅行，这次展览有不少作品便是在印度创作的。1980年，在与妻子和家人在纽约定居之后， 他很快成为当地艺术家与作家圈子里的重要一员，此后他仍一直前往印度旅行。他与一些好友例如著名诗人艾伦•金斯伯格与罗伯特•克瑞里合作创作。1981 年，出于对批评圈中一些反绘画情绪表示抗议，他与尚•米榭•巴斯奇亚、安迪•沃霍尔联合创作了一系列作品。与其他艺术家合作的开放性，以及他自己的实验创 作，，都对其成为国际艺术世界的一颗冉冉升起的新星起到重要作用。他的作品不久就在第七届卡塞尔文献展（1982）与威尼斯双年展（1988，1993与 1995年）上展出。主要美术馆个展包括德国柏林国家美术馆（1984），法国巴黎蓬皮杜艺术中心（1994），纽约古根海姆博物馆（1999），意大利 那不勒斯多纳雷吉纳当代美术馆（2009），以及最近的德国法兰克福锡恩美术馆（2011），意大利佛罗伦萨乌菲齐美术馆（2011）。曾有人说，克莱门 特作为一名艺术家，他的角色是为对意识的普遍见证。他成长为一名艺术家的时候是一个意识更新的需要成为时代圣歌的时候，这也回溯到他的艺术创作倾向上： “作为艺术家，我生命中原始的冲动，”克莱门特说，“是写作，并把写作用影像呈现出来。”他一直以来都追求着扣人心弦的图像，不断实现从已创立的自我概念 中挣脱开来，以求达到对意识的拓展。这一持续的需求，以及他对哲学和性灵的不倦的兴趣，在1973年将他第一次带到了印度。他的1970年代的一半以上的 时光，是在印度南部城市马德拉斯即今天的钦奈所度过，并且在印度四处游历。不久之后，克莱门特便在印度建立了自己的工作室，并与当地的艺术家合作，以及与 神智学协会的成员交流想法。我们也可以说，克莱门特的作品与生活正在不断扩大其多层的经历记录，每个地方都对在当地创作的作品产生了独特的影响，成为一场 前进的视觉性回忆录的起点，同时也包含了一场久远的既个性人又普遍性的历程。
此次克莱门特作品展将聚焦其对水彩的大师级运用。我们将展出其2008年在印度瓦拉纳西创作的水彩画，同时还有2011年在其纽约工作室创作的的大幅水彩 画。在瓦拉纳西创作的作品系列使用了基本的切断的印刷轮廓—摊开的手掌、脚，铃、花瓶与翅膀；在映射的轮廓中显现为心形，或是骨盆形，抑或是两个人类的头 脑形状。学者与批评家Jyotindra Jain与克莱门特在印度创作的作品相交长达20多年，他曾对这些具体的水彩作出如此描述：“切断最外面一条轮廓线的印版，克莱门特先将每一个图形的轮廓 复制到4张或是更多的纸上。没有任何内容，这些中空的图形提供了一个非常奇妙的空间来填入图像的所有动作—漂浮、融化、转化、确定的或是暂定的，单一的或 是联合的；快乐的或是令人不安的—都起源于他星云般的幻想世界。”克莱门特是一位真正的持续性的艺术大师，正如Jain所说，“他着迷于主题中使用的文学 与音乐技术的即兴创作。”这些作品在正式意义上表达了对称性与二重性，又为亲密的反映、敏捷性与流畅的优美性提供了空间。这些手掌与脚的图像在佛教与印度 教文化上有着悠久的传统，象征着人类的命运、吉祥与兴盛。
此次展览中，克莱门特于2011年在纽约工作室创作的三件大幅的水彩作品体现出一种与众不同、元素重复与印象：艺术家在每件作品的正中央或是水平线上用其 真实的脚印留下了一条类似小径或是道路般的痕迹。每件水彩作品都暗示着季节的参照与具体的地形：冬天寒冷而浓密的阴霾天空下，庞大的石头洞穴凸显而出；在 另一件作品中，观者通过观看用锁链连接起来的栅栏而联想到秋天与禁闭，许多长枝叶的花朵或藤蔓被缠绕进了电线网眼；第三件作品描绘了一艘船舰，代表了一条 小船，里面有一朵正盛开的莲花，三个处于不同状态的月亮在这艘倒吊在空中的小船上空盘旋。在这三件作品中，艺术家都用自己的脚印以相似的线条来描绘作品的 轮廓，将其长年的旅行、时光与记忆的流逝与空间的转换结合在一起。正是因为对如此超乎寻常而具有穿透性的作品进行不断的创造与再创造，克莱门特的视觉性词 汇便不断得到延续。
James Cohan Gallery Shanghai is pleased to present its first solo exhibition with the internationally acclaimed artist Francesco Clemente, and the artist’s first-ever exhibition in mainland China.
Francesco Clemente, born in 1952 in Naples, Italy, is widely recognized as a defining contemporary artist for the past four decades who has established an extraordinary, singular pictorial language that draws on timeless symbols, mythologies, cultures, and philosophies. The diversity of the artist’s chosen mediums—paintings, frescos, watercolors, pastels, collage, and gouache—and the themes and subject matter of his works have been deeply informed by Clemente’s nomadic artistic life.
Since the early 1970s the artist has continually traveled between Italy and India where many of the works in this current exhibition were made. He continued to travel to India, after settling in New York with his wife and family in 1980, where Clemente quickly became a vital member of the community of artists and writers. He collaborated with close friends, notably the poets Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley, and in 1981, reacting against a wave of anti-painting sentiment among critical circles, Clemente initiated a series of collaborative paintings with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. The openness to collaborating with other artists combined with his experimental practices contributed to Clemente becoming a rising star of the international art world. His works were soon exhibited at both Documenta 7 in 1982 and the Venice Biennale in 1988, 1993, and again in 1995. Major solo museum exhibitions followed at the Nationalgalerie Berlin (1984), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1994), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1999), MADRE Museum, Naples (2009), and more recently at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2011) and Uffizi Gallery, Florence (2011). It has been said that Clemente’s conviction in his role as an artist is a kind of universal witness of consciousness. He came of age as an artist during a time when the call for a renewal of consciousness was the anthem of the day, which also points to the origins of his artistic inclinations: “The original impulse in my life as an artist,” Clemente has said, “was to write and to break from writing into image.” He has since then pursued arresting and indelible images which bring about an increased realization of the need to break with established notions of Self in order to expand awareness. This imperative, which continues, and his unflagging interest in philosophy and spirituality took Clemente to India for the first time in 1973. He would spend more than half of the 1970s, at irregular intervals, in the southern city of Madras, present day Chennai, and traveled extensively throughout the country. It was not long before Clemente set up a studio and had begun collaborating with local artists and exchange ideas with members of the Theosophical Society there. It can also be said that Clemente’s work and life continues to expands on multilayered records of experience, each place having its own influence on the works created at any given location, becoming an embarkation point for an ongoing visual memoir that encompasses simultaneously a profoundly personal and yet universal journey.
The works in this exhibition focus on Clemente’s masterful use of watercolor. On view are watercolors made in Varanasi, India in 2008, as well as recent large-scale watercolors created at the artist’s studio in New York last year in 2011. The Varanasi watercolors were made using as their basis cut-out stenciled silhouettes—open palms, feet, bells, vases, wings; a heart-shaped or pelvic shape or two human heads in mirrored profile. The scholar and critic Jyotindra Jain, whose engagement with Clemente’s work in India goes back for the past twenty years, has written extensively on these specific watercolors stating “Cutting out a stencil in the form of the outermost contouring elements, Clemente first replicated the silhouette of each of these forms on four or more sheets of paper. Empty of any content, these hollow forms provided a wondrous space to be filled with a repertoire of images—floating, melting, transforming, definite or tentative, single or in combination; pleasant or disquieting—stemming from his nebulous imagistic world.” Clemente is a true master of seriality, as Jain also cites, “who is fascinated by the literary and musical technique of improvisation on a theme.” These works on a formal level convey ideas of symmetry and duality, but also give space to intimate reflection, agility, and fluid gracefulness. The images of the palms and feet have a long tradition in both Buddhist and Hindu cultures as divine symbols of one's destiny, auspiciousness and prosperity.
The three large-scale watercolors in this exhibition, created in Clemente’s New York studio in 2011, all share a distinctive, repeated element and image: the actual footprints of the artist leaving a trail or pathway along the mid-center or horizon line of each work. Each watercolor also suggests seasonal references and specific terrain: a monolithic stone cavern foregrounds a wintry blue and densely clouded sky; in another work the viewer looks through a chain-linked fence suggesting autumn and confinement, where long stemmed flowers or vines are intertwined within the wire mesh; the third depicts a vessel, resembling a small boat, containing a single lotus blossom as three phases of the moon hover above in what appears to be the same vessel suspended upside-down. In each of these large scale works the artist’s footprints follows on a similar course across the work's surface, conveying the artist’s continuous journey, the passage of time and memory, moving from place to place. It is this constant, ongoing invention and reinvention of such extraordinary and penetrating images that has sustained Clemente’s visionary lexicon.
Rarely exhibited, but also on view, will be three ceramic vases the artist made in 2006 and 2008 at his studio located in the New Mexico desert just north of Taos, New Mexico. These vases, glazed with images and motifs not entirely unrelated to the watercolors in this exhibition, relate to Clemente’s long interest in and knowledge of tribal art, religious sculptures, as well as reliquaries or vessels for sacred objects.