Director, Glenn Lowry: Artist, Francesco Clemente has said that this painting has its origins in a dream.
Curator, Ann Temkin: Perseverance is a very important work in Clemente's career as it's the first painting that he made after he moved to New York City in 1981. It was a very different time in the city. Clemente had a dream his first night sleeping in the loft that he had rented. And it had this figure of himself carrying this classical building in his arms and having all this human excrement raining down on him. It's obviously a kind of rare dream that's that dramatic and that, obviously, symbolic in some way. And then, when he painted the picture a little while later, it doesn't matter anymore that that was his dream or that was his first night in New York. Now it's an image. It's out there in the world. You don't even have to know that that's the artist who is represented.
In fact, Clemente makes a lot of self-portraits. But he at no point wants to be expressing himself or projecting a voice that's "Clemente." He has very seriously been involved with Eastern philosophy for most of his life. And so, in terms of a self, he doesn't really think about one ego. He thinks about multiple selves that we all have—divided selves—in a way that can't be summed up in any one object.