Francesco Clemente Creates Hauntingly Deft Tarot Cards

xby  & Robert Grunder

Francesco Clemente as The Fool
Francesco Clemente as The Fool by Francesco Clemente
Calvin Tomkins writes in The New Yorker, "Clemente, born in Naples but a New York resident, off and on, since 1981, studied reproductions of fifteenth-century tarot decks, and delved into the voluminous literature on the subject. “A friend got me Aleister Crowley’s unpublished notes on the cards,” he said. “I read Italo Calvino’s wonderful text. I had my own cards read, and I read cards for my friends."
Fran Lebowitz as Justice
 Fran Lebowitz as Justice by Francesco Clemente
The result is a series of drawings, one for each of the seventy-eight original Tarot Cards, but larger, approximately 19 x 9 1/2 inches, executed in watercolor and gouache, ink, pastel, colored pencil.  Fran Lebowitz, as Justice, holding scales in one hand and a sword in the other, regards the viewer with that dour look that sets up the punch line.

Jasper Johns as The Pope
Jasper Johns as The Pope by Francesco Clemente
Jasper Johns, as the Pope, is framed by two diagonal ladders and a double rainbow of red, yellow, and green watercolor. “I’ve always thought of Jasper as a poet,” Clemente said. “Someone who connects this world to the next one.” 

Salman Rushdie as King of Swords by Francesco Clemente
Salman Rushdie as King of Swords by Francesco Clemente
He drew the card for the Pope (also known as the Hierophant) before he’d decided whom he would put in that role, but after he thought about it for a while there was no other choice. Clemente planned to create a Tarot Card of Julian Schnabel but decided against it, because “he is too many cards at once.”
Brice Marden is the Hanged Man
    Brice Marden is the Hanged Man by Francesco Clemente

Brice Marden is the Hanged Man, dangling nonchalantly from a rope around his left foot, against a pink-and-yellow sky. In tarot, he is based on the Norse god Odin, who hung from the World Tree for nine days to gain knowledge of the runes.

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