18 Wooster Street
“A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows,” a monumental suite of large-scale watercolor paintings by Francesco Clemente, wrapped around the perimeter of the gallery, creating an atmosphere of contemplation and ritual. The work continued the artist’s ongoing project of transforming spiritual life experience into art. The lightness of the rainbow represented a breakthrough from the long night of Clemente’s darker palette.
Clemente had been thinking for a long time about embracing watercolor painting on a large scale. The work began as three sixty-foot-long rainbow paintings, probably the largest watercolors ever made. The artist then cut the large sheets into five equal sections. His cutting of each of his three rainbows into five parts was an important element of the work. The mind stitched them back together. A principal theme was the reconciliation of opposites—cutting and combining.
The artist’s affinity for watercolor derives in part from its immediacy. He cites one of Allen Ginsberg’s mantras, “First thought, best thought.” There is no going back with watercolor; it is impossible to correct. Watercolor is also a modern medium. It is associated with traveling, something that has always been part of the artist’s practice.
The iconography of the work derived from Clemente’s interest in contemplative traditions and the language of these traditions: the tantric from India, the alchemic from Europe, and Candomblé from the Americas. The format came out of a long history of the panorama in Clemente’s work. It also followed his exploration of the double square. The six-by-twelve-foot size of each of the panels was a double square, a symbol of unity and reconciliation.
Clemente 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 noted 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.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
18 Wooster Street
76 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Monday – Friday
10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday
Noon – 6 PM
The gallery reopens with People in April 2018.
+1 (212) 343-7300
View this website on a larger screen for the full experience.