Artist biography

Italian painter. In 1970 he began studying architecture in Rome at the Università degli Studi ‘La Sapienza', establishing a studio where he made drawings, many based on childhood memories and dreams. He became involved in Roman avant-garde art circles and befriended the Italian painter Alighiero Boetti (b 1940), whose work, together with that of Joseph Beuys and Cy Twombly, was an early influence. Clemente's first solo exhibition of collages was held at the Galleria Giulia, Rome, in 1971. His interest in the art, folklore and mysticism of India began with yearly visits from 1973. In 1974 he travelled with Boetti to Afghanistan, producing a series of pastel drawings. Clemente came to prominence in the mid 1970s with his intensely subjective, erotic imagery of frequently mutilated body parts, skewed self-portraits and gesturing, ambivalent figures, often in rich colours. He was part of the revolt against formalism and the detached qualities of much conceptual art, which linked him with such painters as Sandro Chia, David Salle and Georg Baselitz. The eclecticism and highly personal symbolism in his work is evidence of an itinerant life spent between three homes: in Madras, New York and Rome. Clemente's first large-scale oil paintings were executed during a stay in New York (1981–2). The violent, expressionist style and arcane, quasi-religious content of these and later paintings defied easy definition as his work grew more surreal. In 1984 in New York he worked on collaborative projects with the American painter Jean Michel Basquiat and with Andy Warhol.

M. McClure: Francesco Clemente: Testa coda (New York, 1985)
E. Avedon, ed.: Clemente: An Interview with Francesco Clemente by Rainer Crone and Georgia Marsh (New York, 1987)
Francesco Clemente: Three Worlds (exh. cat. by A. Percy and R. Foyle, Philadelphia, PA, Mus. A.; Hartford, CT, Wadsworth Atheneum; San Francisco, CA, MOMA; London, RA; 1990–91)

Article provided by Grove Art Online