541 West 24th Street
May 5-June 30, 2012
The Italian painter Francesco Clemente (b. 1952), who spends time in India and Rome as well as New York, is arguably the most mystical artist to emerge from a country that has produced more than its share of mystical artists. Long obsessed with his own image, and the tantric representation of his own body parts, Clemente has been an esthetic yogi who plumbs the cosmic subconscious and serves up its depths to viewers in the form of dreamy painted tableaux.
His new show at Mary Boone, however, marks a departure from such potent themes. The ten large oils on canvas and 18 small, framed gouache and sanguine drawings are moody, atmospheric pastiches in which a broad range of intercultural iconography mingles, from skulls and mummies to gingham tablecloths to classical marble busts and robed, fluttering Netherlandish angels. Clemente is not afraid of the color pink, or of sensual, gossamer textures.
The holistic motif of the circle abounds, appearing as the grainy wooden frame of a picture window or an elaborate rosette of stained glass. Abstract patterns that recall indigenous textiles loom behind shadowy, primitive figures colored in dusty yellows, earthy browns and blues. The paintings, which have epic titles like The Artificial Princess, Teorema and Trungpa, are both folksy, affixed here and there with strands of pearls or colored buttons, and new-agey, incorporating crescent moons, ladders and quilts.
Clemente’s world may not be one you know, but neither is it completely unfamiliar. Paintings are priced in the $250,000-$350,000 range, while small drawings in the back go for $20,000.