Looking at a work by Francesco Clemente is like taking a journey into an indefinite time where different cultures, races and styles come together in a single language rich in symbols and memories from all over the world. The Neapolitan artist, who for years has lived between New York, India and Italy, pushes us to investigate ourselves through simple and, at the same time, extremely complex questions, millennial questions to which we ceaselessly try to answer. The temporality of life, who we are beyond the mask we choose to wear, the body as a radical instrument of investigation are just some of the issues that his art has been dealing with for decades.

In a private photo taken by Allen Ginsberg, Francesco Clemente, to whom the MoMA in Moscow will dedicate a major exhibition next September.

In one of his fascinating series he creates a deck of tarot cards: what prompted you to do it?
My work stems from the desire to imitate the dynamics of an imaginary contemplative tradition. If you give up all certainty, how can you pass the time? One possibility is to think that the world has total order and harmony. Tarot cards are an expression of order. Everyone is dealt the same cards, only the sequence of coincidences changes.

Turn tarot cards into portraits: public personalities and his private world become a great fresco of contemporary society. How did the choice come about?
To read the cards, they must reflect life. I enjoyed assigning a character to the people present in my existence, like in a theater.

“VIII Justice (Fran Lebowitz)”.

The intellectual Fran Lebowitz is justice, in his hand he holds a scale while behind him a metal mesh opens onto a blue sky and a rainbow.
Fran is family, a friendship of forty years. His intellectual integrity is unusual. Tarot justice is not impartial. Sometimes it is necessary to force the mechanical cruelty of injustice with the will.

Marisa Monte is the Moon. The Brazilian singer is wrapped in the tides together with a pair of wolves howling in the light of a bluish scythe that decorates her head … How did this couple come about? Also for its cultural origin. Marisa is a sensational manifestation of Yemanjà, the aquatic divinity of Candomblé, a religion originating from Africa that survives and thrives in Brazil.

Then there is the beauty Elisa Sednaoui; personifies the knight of swords. It appears as a melancholy Amazon who pierces a bleeding heart. What struck you about this young woman?
His chivalrous temperament. Elisa appeared to me as an unlikely Don Quixote who in such an indifferent age still believes in good and in being able to do good.

(Keep it going)

Opening: “XVIII The Moon (Marisa Monte)”. Works from the tarot series, 2008-2011, which will be re-presented in spring 2022 at the Albertina Museum in Vienna.

Read the full interview in the May issue of Vogue Italia, on newsstands from May 5th

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