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Art April, 28 2009

Francesco Clemente “A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows”

A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows, a monumental suite of large-scale watercolor paintings by Francesco Clemente, will be presented at Deitch Projects’s Wooster Street gallery in May. The paintings will wrap around the perimeter of the gallery, creating an atmosphere of contemplation and ritual. The work continues the artist’s ongoing project of transforming spiritual life experience into art. The lightness of the rainbow represents a breakthrough from the darkness, from the long night of the artist’s darker palette.

For Clemente, the rainbow is a bridge, a structure to bring things together, like religion in its original sense. The rainbow represents the necessity to connect different worlds. The translucence of the rainbow connects with the translucence of watercolor. The rainbow unmasks the nature of light and watercolor brings the light out of paper. In watercolor, the artist does not build the highlights – they are the parts the artist does not touch. The light is behind the paint.

The artist considers his paintings to be ritual implements. They function as mnemonics, keys to remembering the practice of daily ritual. The harlequin that appears in the narrative is an icon of the fragmentation of self, a surrogate for the artist and a link to man’s primeval nature. The artist notes that the earliest image of a harlequin is a man covered in leaves. The webs, cages and fences in the paintings may mean confinement, but they also connote the interrelationship of all things, and ultimately, freedom.

A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows opens May 2 and runs to May 30, 2009. The exhibition takes place at Deitch’s 18 Wooster Street, New York, space.

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