Francesco Clemente "Encampment"

Francesco Clemente “Encampment”

Martin Boyce, "Now I've Got Worry (Storage unit) 1

Martin Boyce, “Now I’ve Got Worry (Storage unit) 1

Artists are a shifty bunch. They are never quite tied to one identity or to one space they occupy. They prowl, they are marauders. When a place they’ve created is no longer habitable, they leave it behind and create another.

In a curious way, this is the season of temporary shelters. Room-size installations are the name of the game. Mobile homes in state of decadence or construction stir the artists’ imagination, allowing them to look at migration and dislocation.  Martin Boyce, the Scottish artist showing now at the RISD Museum, built a classic Eames bookshelf that is not homey at all – rather, like his other grid-like modernist spaces, it looks suspiciously inhumane.

Francesco Clemente, the Italian artist, folds his own sense of instability and resource into  “Encampment” – six full-size hand-painted tents at Mass MoCA.  I wouldn’t mind hanging out under one of Clemente’s sensual, quasi-mythic renderings, where dreams, gods, icons of art and multiplicity of experience mingle.

The most famous temporary encampment of the season is the manger.   Jesus, as the story goes, was born in uncertain circumstances and placed in a manger, a trough or crib where cattle fodder was placed. Whether the family was in a cave in Bethlehem or in a tent, the manger remains basic – and little models of it pop up all over the world.  The peripatetic life, the search for a place as intersection of vertical and horizontal poles, of spirit and body, isn’t such a bad model, as all artists know. Empathy is a personal hearth  that can be carried with you, no matter where.

Francesco Clemente "Encampment"

Francesco Clemente “Encampment”

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  1. Tom D'Evelyn says:

    I really love how all the talk about moving on and out and about tents and mobile homes folds into the final sentence like a shut umbrella. Brilliant prose even when the nervous energy arcs across abysses of logic and sense. Got to stay sharp or Jill will spirit you away in her verbal caravan. If only!

  2. Tom D'Evelyn says:

    I wish all artists did know what you are talking about. If you really knew how many could nod to your beautiful prose without understanding a word, I think it would make no difference to you. And that’s a good thing! ‘In the solitude / the skateboarder falls with grace/ Christmas break.’ Your blog spaces are like the empty playground where the young skateboarder perfects his mu. We are privileged to watch.

    • Vladimir says:

      Very well put, Tom. Are you turning into a poet due to Jill’s influence?
      Frankly, this Francesco Clemente should pay Jill, because his haphazardly constructed tents do not really deserve such a paean.

      • jillbpearlman says:

        Having written Clio’s Mobile Home, I am partial to temporary constructions, tents, mobile homes, RVs, and the like. But tent green can be boring. Clemente’s florid imagination puts an end to that! Plus, we take all that’s in our heads and cultures on the road. THese images and memories play and replay, mix in odd ways filling the emptiness of the desert/refugee camp/overstuffed alien culture as we move through. And of course, Tom is a wonderful poet. Vive la poesie!

    • jillbpearlman says:

      The image of your skateboarder is so delicate and precise, Tom. With its enacted motion, it unfolds in time; it deepens, for the reader, with each replay. How lovely to be side by side with this perfect embodiment of this idea/l which only succeeds when it falls!

      Today, going through a notebook of the year’s scribblings and jottings, I came across this quotation from Francis Ponge: “When man becomes proud to be not just the site where ideas and feelings are produced, but also the crossroads where they divide and mingle, he will be ready to be saved.”

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