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Clement Edward Joseph Peter Renzi|
January 31, 1925
Farmersville, California, United States
December 1, 2009 (aged 84)|
|Known for||Sculpture, block print|
Clement Renzi (born Clement Joseph Edward Peter Renziaa) was an American sculptor whose figurative bronze and terra cotta works depict people and their relationships, and animals. He is best known in California's Central Valley, where his work remains popular with collectors, and is placed in over sixty business and other public venues, primarily in that region.
Childhood and family
Clement Renzi was the third of seven children born to Clemente Renzi and Luisa Guastaferro. The couple migrated from New Jersey to Farmersville, California, having heard that the town resembled Clemente's native village of Dugenta, Italy.
Beginnings as a Sculptor
Clement Renzi's first drawing, at about age 7, depicted a cow on his family's farm. He resolved to become a sculptor during a family trip to San Francisco's Palace of the Legion of Honor. During that visit, he encountered a sculpture of by Auguste Rodin and had difficulty keeping his hands off them, despite admonitions of a security guard.
At the end of World War II, while serving as a naval officer in Hawaii, Renzi worked in a lumberyard. He worked there under an ex-art instructor and began to experiment with carving teak, mahogany and other tropical wood.
Later, while at U.C. Berkeley studying business administration through the G.I. Bill, he took art classes with Jacques Schnier and Richard O'Hanlon. A fellow student urged him to attend a lecture by Henry Schaefer-Simmern, who was a professor of Art Education there. The lecture was an epiphany for Renzi, who said, "It was just like I had walked into daylight from darkness."
"It was that kind of an experience and it had a profound effect on me. Here was Henry saying that art cannot be imposed upon you. You have to make your own judgments. I had thought that the teacher alone played that part and made all the judgments, but Henry said, 'No, you are perfectly free to do it your own way. The most important thing is that you do what you can do, in the way that you feel it, and the way you can express it. It has perfect validity as a work of art when you do it your own way.' That enormous sense of freedom gave me an exciting license to advance along my own path." 
Renzi enrolled as a charter member of Schaefer-Simmern's Institute of Art Education and continued his studies there for five years. He later said that Schaefer-Simmern provided a “course to guide my whole life work.” 
Although Renzi experimented with drawing, painted needlework, mosaic, and block printing, Schaefer-Simmern observed that his work in all media often resembled statues. He encouraged Renzi to pursue sculpture and helped get his first major commissioned project, the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, for a Christian Brothers retreat center in St. Helena, California.
In 1950, Renzi married Dorothy Ohannesian, a classically trained singer from Fresno, California.
In 1954-55, Dorothy studied singing in Vienna through an Alfred Hertz Master's Fellowship from UC Berkeley. During this time, Clement attended Vienna's Academy of Applied art, with a special focus on block printing. The couple also studied in Paris.
Soon after their return to the United States, Clement and Dorothy moved to New York City to accommodate Dorothy's recording contract with MGM records. In 1956, Renzi was given a temporary workspace at New York's Sculpture Center. Clement offered a large tapestry, Eat, Drink and Be Merry, for sale at the gallery at an audaciously high price, not fully wanting to part with it. When, to his surprise, the work was sold, Dorthy encouraged Clem to devote himself full-time to his sculpture. He participated in several group shows at Sculpture Center and held a one-man exhibit there in 1960.
In a brochure for the 1960 exhibit, Sculpture Center's founder Dorothea Denslow commented, “These little people with their long noses, big eyes, and chubby figures live in a far-away land. They are friendly, warm and at peace with themselves, enjoying their unimportant happy moments. We do not know them or their country, but Renzi does, as you can readily see by this show. Through his sculpture, we watch them as they work and play in close harmony, concerned only with the miracles of their simple world.”
In 1963 the couple moved to Dorothy's hometown of Fresno, to raise their daughter in a quieter environment. Renzi's first commission was for a large bronze, The Visit. Located on the north end of Fresno's downtown pedestrian mall, it depicts two women in conversation.
Renzi taught in the art department at Fresno State College for three years, but left when it seemed to be taking too much attention from his work. Renzi had built a studio in his back yard in Fresno's Fig Garden neighborhood, and travelled periodically to cast his larger bronze works through the lost wax process in Verona, Italy; Bergamo, Italy; Madrid, Spain; and Mexico City. In more recent years, as costs rose abroad, he settled into a working relationship with local foundryman Lester Harries. His terra cotta works, made from locally derived clay, were often cast in a kiln on the premises of his home. Most of the completed works were unique or cast in editions of two or three.
In his later years, Renzi continued to receive almost uninterrupted commissions for large bronzes for area hospitals, banks, churches, schools, colleges, the Fresno library, entertainment centers, civic buildings, parks, malls and businesses. In addition, he produced hundreds of smaller works, which he sold from his home and through local galleries. He also continued to offer works through the Lillian Kornbluth gallery in Fairlawn, New Jersey; the William Beattie Gallery in Chicago, and Sculpture Center in New York City.
Controversy about Brotherhood of Man
In 1969, one of Renzi's sculptures, Brotherhood of Man, drew attention to his work when a group unsuccessfully contested its placement at Fresno's new courthouse, asserting that its subject matter violated the separation of church and state.
Renzi's style sometimes resembles the work of Ernst Barlach, reflecting the influence of German expressionism in his training, and has also been compared to folk art. However, Renzi did not identify with any particular style or movement and considered the character of his work to have evolved through an introspective, self-directed process of trial and error.
Renzi's early work often featured tall, slender forms. In the early 60's his sculptures could be characterized as “fat and flat”. Later works assumed a more rounded, friendly aspect with cherubic children making a frequent appearance, although he also experimented with other kinds of forms, such as a series of bird-like boats with abstract human passengers.
Although Renzi's art was well received by critics and collectors during his New York years, and he continued to market smaller pieces through galleries in the New York and Chicago areas, he later gave little attention to promoting his work in major urban centers. He is best known in Fresno and its surrounding communities.
- The Sculpture Center, New York New York. 1960 and 1973.
- St. Mary's College, Moraga, California
- University of Virginia Gallery, Charlottesville, Virginia
- Fresno Art Center (Clement Renzi: The Fresno Years, 1989. Renzi: Art, Life, Legacy, 2012)
- Kings Gallery, Hanford, California
- L'Entrepreneur Art Gallery, Fresno, California. December 1965 – January 1966. Bronze and Terra Cotta sculptures.
- William Rogers Gallery, Fresno, California. Renzi: A showing of bronze and terra cotta sculptures completed during 1977, 1977.
- Couvier Gallery, Fresno, California
- San Francisco Museum of Art
- Notre Dame University (permanent collection)
- University of Virginia Museum (permanent collection), Charlottesville, Virginia
- St. Mary's College Museum, Moraga, California
- Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
- Kornbluth Gallery, Fairlawn, New Jersey
- Benjamin-Beattie Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
- Wilson Gallery, Fresno, California
- Plum's Gallery, Fresno, California
Public Works by Clement Renzi
- 1962 Stations of the Cross." Carmelite House of Prayer, Oakdale, California.
- 1964 The Visit. Fulton Mall, Fresno, California
- 1964 The Reader. Woodrow Wilson High School, Hanford, California
- 1966–1967 "Walking Madonna and Christ Child." Sacred Heart Chapel, Ellis St., San Francisco, CA
- 1967 The Musicians II 600 W. Main St., Visalia, California
- 1967 Peasant Dancers. San Diego, California
- 1967 The New Book. Mariposa Library, Fresno, California
- 1967 Fish (Mosaic). St Mary's College, Moraga, California
- 1968 The Acrobats. Fresno City College, Fresno, California
- 1968 Brotherhood of Man. Fresno, California
- 1968 Mother and Child (Madonna and Child). St. Mary's College, Moraga, California
- 1968 St. Anthony. St. Anthony of Padua Church, Fresno, California
- 1970 Christ the Healer. St. Agnes Hospital, Fresno, California
- 1971 The Family. Bigby Villa, Fresno, California
- 1971 The Three Graces. California State University, Fresno. Fresno, California
- 1971 Water Birds (Cranes). Shaw and Milbrook Ave., Fresno, California
- 1971 Trusting Hands (Mother and Child). Tulare County Historical Museum, Tulare, California
- 1972 Boy in the Fountain (A Summer Day). Valley Children's Hospital, Madera, California
- 1972 The Waifs. Bank. Sanger, California*
- 1973 The Yokuts Indian. Fulton Mall, Fresno, California
- 1973 Marsh Birds. Modesto, California
- 1973 Sound the Trumpets. Visalia Convention Center, Visalia, California
- 1974 Boy with Birds. Fresno Zoo, Fresno, California* 1977 Family Matters. Westamerica Bank, Fresno, California
- 1978 The Young Readers. Edition of two.
- Media Center, San Joaquin Memorial High School, Fresno, California
- Hiebert Library, Fresno Pacific College, Fresno, California
- 1978 Caring. California Armenian Home for the Aged, Fresno, California
- 1979 Common Bonds (Sharing).
- Modesto, California
- Laguna Hills, California
- 1980?Acrobats." Valley Children's Hospital, Madera, California.
- 1980 A Day Out with Grandma. Olive & M. Street, Merced, California
- 1981 A Day in the Park. (terra cotta relief) 1930 E. Shields Ave., Fresno, California
- 1982 Elephant Arch. Chaffee Zoo, Fresno, California
- 1982 Children at Play (Spirit of Youth). Edition of 2.
- University Picadilly, Fresno, California
- Panther Creek Shopping Center, Woodlands, Texas.
- 1982 The Reader. Offices of Grabe, Schapansky, Moss and Claypool, Fresno, California
- 1983 Young Corbett III (The Boxer). Selland Arena, Fresno, California
- 1983 Mother and Son (To the Sea, Into the Wind, Mother and Child Running). City Hall, Santa Maria, California
- 1983 Take My Hand. Fresno Arts Center, Fresno, California
- 1984 Family Celebration. Kings County Government Center, Hanford, California
- 1985 Firstborn. Kawah Delta District Hospital, Visalia, California
- 1986 Sleeping Child. (terra cotta) St. Agnes, Hospital, Fresno, California
- 1990 Monseigneur Dowling and the Children." Shrine of St. Therese, 1410 N. Wishon, Fresno, California.
- 1995 Memorial to Tommy. Chaffee Zoo, Fresno, California
- 1996 Graduation Day (The Diploma). Tulare County Department of Education, Visalia, California
- 1997 The Engineer. Sumner Engineering, Hanford, California
- 2002 Quail. Quail Park Retirement Village, Visalia, California
- 2004 Children Dancing. Trolley Creek Park, Fresno, California
- 2004 Storytime. Kings County Office of Education, Hanford, California
- 2005 Fig Garden Swim and Racquet Club Founders' Memorial Statue. Fresno, California
- 2005 Boy Chasing Birds. U.S. District Court Federal Courthouse, Fresno, California
- 2006 Children Learning. Copper Hills Elementary School, Clovis, California
- 2007 Deborah, Judge of Israel. (created 1989) Apellate Court, Fresno, California
- 2009 Commencement. Merced County Department of Education, Merced, California (Completed after the artist's death)
Other public works by Renzi (dates to be determined):
- Duet. Coast Savings, Stockton, California
- The Three R's.
- Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno, California
1998 # Kremen School of Education and Development, Fresno, California
- The Architectural League of New York – 1960 Award for Sculpture
- The Audubon Society of New York – 1961 Sculpture Selection
- The Silvermine Guild, Silvermine, Connecticut – 1962 Stone Carving Award
- The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA – 1964 Purchase Award
- Horizon Award, Fresno Arts Council
- Shirley Melikian, "Former Visalian Ignored Skepticism to Study Art." Visalia Times-Delta. Jan. 23, 1974. p 1B
- His figure and his ground: An art educational biography of Henry Schaefer-Simmern. (Volumes I and II) Berta, Raymond C., Ph.D. Stanford University,1994 (UMI 300 N. Zeeb Rd. Ann Arbor, MI48106), p. 233
- Fresno City College RAM, 1976-77. The Renzi Style: Sculpting the Spirit. By Darlene McAfee. Photos by G. Kim Vargas. Pp 12-19
- The Los Angeles Times, Sunday, March 2, 1969, Ken Overbaker, "Religious Memorial on Fresno County Property Stirs Dispute." Section C, p.1.
- Fresno City College RAM, 1976-77. The Renzi Style: Sculpting the Spirit. By Darlene McAfee. Photos by G. Kim Vargas. pp 12–19
- Davenport, William. W.; The Editors of Sunset Magazine. Art Treasures of the West. Menlo Park, Ca: Lane Magazine & Book, 1966.
- His figure and his ground: An art educational biography of Henry Schaefer-Simmern. (Volumes I and II) Berta, Raymond C., Ph.D. Stanford University,1994 (UMI 300 N. Zeeb Rd. Ann Arbor, MI48106)