Chiara Clemente’s group portrait of five successful artists uses New York’s creative allure as a way of discussing the challenges and rewards of being a woman in the art world. Rather than make a visual collage through crosscutting, Clemente gives each subject a segment of her own, beginning with the youngest.
The monomonikered Swoon came from Fort Lauderdale to study at the Pratt Institute, and her intricate stenciled portraits, furtively applied to public spaces, brought her early success. Hurt seeps through her feigned nonchalance when describing a piece defaced with the words sold to moma. Egyptian-born Ghada Amer channels her feminist anger into mixed-media works in paint and embroidery; Germany’s Kiki Smith emerged from her sculptor father’s shadow at age 26. Established Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic, 60, came to New York looking for new challenges, while 80-year-old Nancy Spero (whose mosaics grace the 66th St–Lincoln Ctr subway station) and her late husband, painter Leon Golub, were so intimidated by NYC as young artists that they spent four years in Paris.
Yes, Chiara is Francesco Clemente’s daughter, but Our City Dreams isn’t about her. It’s a thoughtful, sometimes revealing look at creative lives and the forces that shaped them.