Peter Blum is pleased to announce the exhibition, Frescoes by Francesco Clemente, opening on Saturday, September 18, at 99 Wooster Street. This exhibition is the first to feature Clemente's frescoes in the United States since his 1981 show in New York at Sperone Westwater Gallery, and the major 1987 exhibition devoted entirely to Clemente's frescoes, "Affreschi Pinturas al Fresco" presented at the Fundación Caja De Pensiones in Madrid. The focus of the current show is works from the early to mid 1980s, with one rare, more recent fresco from 1994. The exhibition will be on view to November 6.
Clemente has long been recognized and admired for his paintings, pastels and watercolors, where self-portraiture, and his own body, are in large measure his subject matter. He was also the first contemporary European painter to present audiences, as early as 1979, with a revitalized look at the tradition of fresco painting.
Fresco painting dates back to the Etruscans, and is especially familiar in Clemente's native Naples through its proximity to Pompeii's painted walls. Technically, the fresco consists of painting on freshly cast plaster with pigments ground in water only. The fresh plaster is the medium and is what binds the pigments. Each day the painter wants to work he must cover the surface or area to be painted with a fresh coat of plaster. The colors penetrate the surface, cohere with it, and dry together. The natural crystalline surface of the plaster consolidates like glass with the paint and fixes it unchangeably. It is this chemical technical process which is unique to fresco painting, the special light and colors which are only obtained with this technique in accordance with the direct, spontaneous working methods it demands from the painter. No changes may occur because no correction is possible, unless one wants to destroy the entire fresco and start again the next day. Therefore the fresco requires very specific methods of painting which the artist applies in accordance with his feeling-working thin, transparent layers as in the case with watercolor, or he may try more solid impasto layers akin to oil painting. For Clemente, however, the fresco is not merely a technique with which to reflect on certain cultural, historical or aesthetic affinities, but is a living tradition.
When asked about his contribution to the history of the affresco (or fresco), Clemente replies, "From the beginning of the fresco onward, you can cheat, add things, but there is nothing you can subtract, because the fresco is already the minimum. The medium itself refuses any excess of personality. It is organic to the activity of building. With the fresco, the pigment is exactly the way it is in nature. The beauty of the fresco parallels the Chinese conception of beauty, as in the expression, 'White comes last'."
For additional information or photographic materials please contact Arthur Solway or Peter Blum. The gallery is located at 99 Wooster Street. Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10-6, Saturday 11-6 and Monday by appointment. Tel: 212-343-0441.