Clemente exhibit sheds light on Brazilian culture

“Clemente > Brazil > Yale” showcases 30 paintings that Italian artist Francesco Clemente made while traveling in Brazil.
“Clemente > Brazil > Yale” showcases 30 paintings that Italian artist Francesco Clemente made while traveling in Brazil. Photo by Emilie Foyer.

On Monday, the School of Art’s Edgewood Gallery opened its doors to the public to showcase the work of Italian artist Francesco Clemente.

Curated by School of Art Dean Robert Storr, “Clemente > Brazil > Yale” features about 30 paintings that Clemente made on a series of trips to Brazil between 2006 and 2008, which have never been displayed as a complete body of work. The art, which includes large oil paintings and smaller watercolors, involves a rich mixture of cultural reference that reflect the fusion of Brazilian culture, Storr said. The exhibit also contributes to ongoing discussions in the school about Yale students’ responses to multicultural artwork, Storr said.

“Francesco’s work has always been about how cultures meld rather than clash, and Brazilian culture itself is like that,” Storr said. “It would be nice if people could begin to think in ways that are not always dichotomous.”

Partly due to the abundance of religious references in Clemente’s work, Storr organized the exhibit in a way that would produce a chapel effect, by placing large oil paintings in the middle of smaller watercolors vertically aligned on either side. Although many of the watercolors could be seen as studies for the larger oil paintings, Storr did not want to place them side by side.

“I wanted to separate the two kinds of paintings from one another so that you re-experience the images as you move through but also see each one of them for their own sake,” Storr said.

At the show’s opening reception on Tuesday night, seven of eight spectators interviewed pointed to the curatorial arrangement of the works as one of the show’s defining features. Vincent Katz, a poet and son of Alex Katz, whose work was featured in the Edgewood Gallery’s previous show “Katx x Katz,” said the mixture of watercolor and oil paintings is a harmonious combination, though he prefers to look at each work individually. Aimee Mullins, a friend of Clemente from New York, said she thinks the different groupings of art created in the show’s layout reflected different moods.

But Enga Purevjav, another friend of Clemente from New York, said she wishes the works were more spread out so that the larger pieces could have more space to breathe. She added that she appreciates how the exhibit is being held in New Haven rather than New York, explaining that “in New York, people are too fast-paced to appreciate this work.”

Lucia Hierro ART ’13, a painting student, said that although she would not have noticed the Brazilian influence unless told, the Catholic references and symbols were more obvious.

“The paintings capture the mood behind the religious stories you’re told and the stories you remember and how they affect you personally even when you move on from the religion,” Herro said.

“Clemente > Brazil > Yale” will run until June 2.

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