Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt Presents Francesco Clemente Palimpsest

. June 2, 2011 . 0 Comments

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents a comprehensive solo exhibition with monumental works by Francesco Clemente., on view 8 June–4 September 2011.

Francesco Clemente, “A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows (III),” 2009. Watercolor on paper, 185,7 x 368,6 cm Commissioned by Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Courtesy Francesco Clemente

Francesco Clemente, born in 1952 in Naples, has pioneered an extraordinary pictorial language that draws on a variety of timeless symbols, myths, cultures, and philosophies. Frequently charged with eroticism, his oeuvre also has a profound religious quality. The variety of mediums, which he employs and the subject matter of his work are deeply informed by Clemente’s nomadic artistic life. Since the 1970s he has continually travelled between Italy and India, adding New York City to his preferred places of residency since 1980. This exhibition at the Schirn Kunsthalle is the first comprehensive showing of his paintings and drawings in Germany in more than a quarter century. The exhibition, which will be on view from June 8 until September 4, 2011, brings together some forty works made between 1978 and 2011. Taking as its starting point Clemente’s early works on paper, the show also includes both large format paintings and more recent, spectacular monumental watercolours. Conceptualized in close cooperation with the artist, the exhibition brings to light for the first time the close resemblance of Clemente’s aesthetic to the manner in which references are actualized in a palimpsest: effacement, partial erasure, and superimposition of writing surfaces. In so doing it reveals a concern at the centre of his oeuvre: Clemente’s conviction in his role as an artist as a kind of universal witness of consciousness.

Realized in a variety of media such as pastel, fresco, oil, gouache and watercolor, Clemente’s work interweaves traditional likenesses and narratives with more personal motifs and stories. In his paintings forms and lines seem to emerge and recede forming multilayered records of experience. This aesthetic is quite similar to the technique of the palimpsest, employed in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Applied on used scrolls of parchment, it involved scraping, erasing and washing the older manuscripts to yield a clean sheet for reuse, although in fact traces of the original texts often remained visible.

The similarity of his method of working to a palimpsest is far from coincidental. Instead such a technique points back to the origins of his artistic inclinations. As Clemente recently put it: “The original impulse in my life as an artist was to write and to break from writing into image.” His concern with language was already evident at the young age of twelve, when a collection of his poems, Castelli di Sabbia was published. Thereafter he studied Greek and Latin in high school, before moving to Rome in 1970, where he increasingly came to believe that art was the “last oral tradition alive in the West.” It was then that he first saw it as his task to make work that had a political valence. Clemente came of age as an artist during a time when the need for a renewal of consciousness was the call of the day. Since then he has single-mindedly pursued giving form to images that might help bring about an increased awareness of the need to break with established notion of Self in order to expand awareness.

Francesco Clemente will be present at the exhibition opening on Tuesday, June 7, 2011, at 7 p.m. A public discussion will take place on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the exhibition, with Francesco Clemente, curator Pamela Kort and Max Hollein, director of the Schirn Kunsthalle.

DIRECTOR: Max Hollein. CURATOR: Pamela Kort. PRESS CONTACT: Dorothea Apovnik (head Press/Public Relations), Markus Farr, Giannina Lisitano (press officer), phone: (+49-69) 29 98 82-148, fax: (+49-69) 29 98 82-240, e-mail:,, (texts, images, and films for download under PRESS).

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Römerberg, D-60311 Frankfurt
T (+49-69) 29 98 82-0
F (+49-69) 29 98 82-240

Category: Museum News

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