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PRINT November 1988

CHARON'S BOAT

Huye que huye de la muerte

De la muerte sentada al borde del mar

—Vicente Huidobro, Altazor, 19301

IN A LIGHT BROWN CANVAS resembling the embalming linen of Egyptian mummies, the stark outline of an empty vessel floats. This might be the ship of a pharaoh, or the ferry that carries souls to the Otherworld (a deserted “Ship of Fools”), or this might be merely a generic sign, like the ones that point the way in our cavernous airports teeming with wandering bodies (bodies in search of a soul, or souls sheltered in the bare semblance of a body). Because it is contained within an almost fluorescent blue frame, a sort of picture within the picture, Francesco Clemente’s Boat seems twice removed from the real world; and yet its very flatness and even the angular sharpness of its contours negate a metaphysical dimension. This boat is just what it appears to be: a negative shape into which all the

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