Retrospective Spans 25 Years of Artist's Career; More Than 150 Works Featured, Including Oil and Fresco Paintings, Works on Paper, Sculpture, and Book Illustrations

Press Preview: Thursday, October 7, 1999, 10 am to 2 pm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York City
Remarks begin at 11:30 am

Clemente, the first comprehensive career retrospective of Italian-born artist Francesco Clemente, opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on October 8, 1999. Spanning the 1970s to the present year, the exhibition features more than 150 works in a variety of media, including oil and fresco paintings,watercolors, pastel drawings, sculpture, and book illustrations. Clemente will be on view through January 9, 2000. HUGO BOSS is the sponsor of this exhibition as part of its ongoing support of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

"Francesco Clemente is among the most gifted artists of the second half of the twentieth century," stated Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. "We are delighted to be able to present this exhibition and to demonstrate the range of Clemente's achievement."

"Art, like fashion, draws its inspiration from the global culture that surrounds us," said Werner Baldessarini, Chairman and CEO, HUGO BOSS. "Our support of the Clemente retrospective is an emphatic expression of this conviction. HUGO BOSS is proud to support Clemente as part of our ongoing partnership with the Guggenheim."

The youngest artist ever to receive a full-museum retrospective at the Guggenheim, Francesco Clemente has created a vast body of work filled with rich and varied imagery. He first received international critical acclaim at the 1980 Venice Biennale, where his use of the figure and traditional materials departed from the conceptualist aesthetic that was prevalent in the art of the late 1960s and 70s. His subjects are drawn from a transhistorical and transcultural web of styles and cultures, and reflect Mediterranean, Indian, and American influences. Alluding to the kaleidoscopic range of Clemente's art, the critic Edit deAk has described the artist as "a chameleon in a state of grace."

The exhibition fills the entire Rotunda and Tower Galleries 5 and 7, and is organized thematically rather than chronologically, in keeping with the artist's anti-hierarchical, open-ended spirit. The eight sections offer a unique, personal narrative of Clemente's work. "I" examines how Clemente's portraits and self-portraits depict the self as a permeable entity with borders that shift in encounters with other cultures and peoples. "Unborn" evokes the paradoxical character of Clemente's art, suspended between the material and the immaterial, word and image, East and West. "Rooms" offers spaces for meditation and features frescoes, as well as the installation of The Indigo Room (1983-84) and the series The Fourteen Stations (1981-82). "Bestiary" explores the artist's belief in the equal importance of all orders of life, from the animal to the supernatural. "Conversion to Her" links the polymorphous sexuality in his images to the idea of metamorphosis. In "Amulets and Prayers," the elements, the five senses, signs, and numbers that recur throughout Clemente's work are treated as interwoven symbols imbued with personal significance. "Books, Palimpsests, Collaborations" features Clemente's involvement with the literary community, particularly his book collaborations with poets. Installed directly beneath Frank Lloyd Wright's domed skylight, "Sky" employs the metaphor of the cosmos to suggest how Clemente's ideas and images form a unique aesthetic constellation.

Clemente was born in 1952 in Naples, Italy. The cosmopolitan tradition of Naples, coupled with Clemente's extensive travels throughout Europe in his youth, profoundly affected his artistic and intellectual sensibility. In 1970 Clemente moved to Rome to study architecture. The fractured political, social, and cultural landscape of Italian society after 1968--its ideological rigidity on the one hand, and dissolution of national and regional character on the other--incited in the artist the need to develop a new pan-historical approach to understanding the world. Clemente made several trips to India between 1973 and 1978. India's heterogeneous culture influenced Clemente profoundly, impressing upon him a model for stylistic fragmentation that would characterize his oeuvre. In India, the artist found the freedom to work simultaneously with different subject matter and media, such as drawing, watercolor, fresco, oil painting, sculpture, and book illustration.

Drawn to the ethnic and cultural diversity of New York, Clemente and his family moved permanently to the city in 1981. He integrated himself into a community of painters, graffiti artists, composers, musicians, filmmakers, poets, and critics. He painted portraits of many of these figures, illuminated poetry by Allen Ginsberg in a number of projects they developed together, and collaborated on a group of paintings with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

An inveterate traveler, Clemente continued to wander the globe, synthesizing his experiences into new painterly narratives. He returned to India and Italy regularly, and eventually established a second home and studio in New Mexico. The geography of these different places (as well as the people, history, culture, and religions that define each locale) accumulate in the artist's memory and imagination and emerge in his work. The extraordinary scope and quality of his artistic production and the singular personal vision it expresses has made Clemente one of the most important artists of our time.

HUGO BOSS has supported numerous major retrospectives by important artists at the Guggenheim, including exhibitions by Ross Bleckner, Georg Baselitz, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Rauschenberg.

The Guggenheim would also like to thank the Murray and Isabella Rayburn Foundation.

Clemente has been organized by Lisa Dennison, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Craig Houser and Melanie Mari-o, Curatorial Assistants, coordinated the exhibition and catalogue. Bill Katz is the exhibition designer.

A fully illustrated catalogue published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and distributed through Harry N. Abrams, Inc., will accompany the exhibition. It includes texts by Robert Creeley, Lisa Dennison, Raymond Foye, Jyotindra Jain, Thomas Krens, Gita Mehta, Francesco Pellizzi, Rene Ricard, Ettore Sottsass, and Gus Van Sant. The hard-cover edition of the catalogue costs $75, and the soft-cover costs $45.

Exhibition Tour
Clemente will be on view at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao from February 14 to June 4, 2000, after which it will travel to other venues in the United States and abroad.

Public Programs

Public programs are organized and supported by the Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, a major facility for the museum's education initiatives. Unless otherwise noted, the following programs are held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and are free with museum admission.

Daily Tours
"Highlights of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum" is offered daily at noon. Hour-long docent tours of Clemente are offered daily at 2 and 4 pm. On Sundays, October 10, November 14, and December 5, at 4 pm, this tour is interpreted for deaf and hearing-impaired visitors by a certified sign-language interpreter. "A Curatorial Eye" presents Guggenheim Museum curators offering guided tours of the exhibitions on select Fridays at 2 p.m. Featured curators for this exhibition are Craig Houser, Curatorial Assistant, on October 22, and Melanie Mari-o, Curatorial Assistant, on November 12. Each tour is limited to 30 people, with reservations taken at the information desk one hour prior to the start of the program. Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are available and have been made possible through public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. Support has also been provided by a generous grant from the Sprint Foundation.

"Noontime Slide Talk" will be presented on November 9, at 12 pm by lecturer Ina Rolshoven, who will examine the origins of various religious symbols present in Clemente's work.

Poetry Readings
During the course of his career, Clemente has collaborated with and befriended many well-known poets. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Guggenheim will present two evenings of poetry readings by some of these authors, featuring Gregory Corso and Patti Smith on Tuesday, October 19, and Michael McClure and John Wieners on Tuesday, October 26. The series is organized and will be introduced by Craig Houser. All presentations are at 7 pm in the Peter B. Lewis Theater. Tickets are $10 ($7 for Members, Students, and Seniors) and are available one month prior to each event. They may be purchased during museum hours at the admission desk or through the Box Office. The Box Office opens one hour prior to each performance. Tickets may be purchased at the door as space allows.

Programs for Families
On Sunday, October 24, and December 5, at 2 pm, family tours and art workshops are followed by hands-on workshops led by Guggenheim teaching artist John Cassotta. This program is $10 per child ($5 for members), plus museum admission. Enrollment is limited to 20 children (ages 7 to 12). Pre-registration is required; please call (212) 423-3587.

A free, full-color family activity guide accompanying the Clemente exhibition will be available for children and their grown-up companions at the museum.

September 7, 1999


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