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The Udo and Anette Brandhorst Foundation Acquires Three Works by Francesco Clemente
Francesco Clemente, Sound and Shadow, I III, 2002, oil on canvas, each 227.5 x 278 cm. Photo: Haydar Koyupinar © Francesco Clemente.

MUNICH.- Francesco Clemente’s works “Sound and Shadow, I–III”, the Udo and Anette Brandhorst Foundation’s most recent acquisitions, were painted in 2002 in New Mexico and depict a desert landscape in vastly changing moods – possibly an allusion to different times of day. The central motif that dominates the composition is modified slightly and can be interpreted as a loose combination of huge and abnormally shaped hands and feet. The body and head, where sensuousness and emotion are located, have – in proportion – been reduced to a minimum. The posture and gesture of the grotesquely distorted figure can either be seen as those of someone kneeling and worshipping, clasping and squeezing, or crawling and running. The conception of the world and of the natural are more or less reduced to bodily experiences, i.e. psyche and mind are bound to physis and related motoric functions. The artist, however, diagnoses this correlation as fundamentally disturbed and symbolically condenses this horrific finding. Perhaps the pictures are to be seen in such a way that people are able to make everything continuously larger, faster or more effective, due to their instrumental rationality, despite succumbing to extreme physical deformations and dire impairments to their emotional, moral and mental capacities as a result. This
contradictoriness also finds expression in the title: the bold, brilliant sound conjures up dark shadows that appear threatening. The succinctly elaborated antithesis could refer to the problematic relationship of humankind to itself and to nature, thus ascribing a latent socio-critical impulse to these paintings. Through the radical transformation of traditional motifs, Clemente succeeds in rendering this visible. However, it must be said that the painter does not depict one particular viewpoint, but leaves many aspects unexplained in the aesthetics of the paintings, thus allowing for other perspectives.

The paintings are contrasted with works by Andy Warhol in the Museum Brandhorst that illustrate the modification and depletion of a symbol of social change. The variations of Warhol’s “Hammer and Sickle” were made at a time when the Communist utopia was still of relevance. In contrast, Clemente’s pictures, painted 25 years later, underline the danger of subdividing the individual and the decline of human identity.

The Italian Francesco Clemente (b.1952) is seen as one of the transavantgarde artists along with Chia, Cucchi and Paladino, due to his figurative expressionistic pictorial language. Since 1980, he has being living mostly in New York, interrupted from time to time by lengthy periods in India. Theosophy, Hinduism, astrology and depth psychology as pioneered by C.G. Jung are his sources of inspiration as are contemporary literature, music and art. Clemente’s pictorial world draws on various eastern and western cultures, the past and present, and revolves time and again around the human figure, sexuality, myths and spirituality. His transcultural orientation has repeatedly led to collaboration with other painters (Basquiat, Warhol) and writers (Ginsberg, Creeley, among others). Metamorphosis is one of the central formal principles of his imaginary pictorial worlds that are positioned between the enigmatic and evidential, figurative and abstract, formal and ornamental.

The paintings are now on view in the Museum Brandhorst.

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