The contorted, liquid images in the neo-expressionist works of Italian painter Francesco Clemente often evoke the impression of water nymphs swimming across the canvas length, piercing the surface with their signature slit almond eyes. Clemente's art is both damning and beautiful. A veteran of New York's 1980s art scene, he is back after a four-year hiatus from the city's exhibition circuit with a new collection of portraits. He has painted his friends, such as the wife of American minimalist painter Brice Marden; director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Lisa Dennison, who organized Clemente's first major retrospective there in 1999; and well-known collectors Bill and Margaret Gellatly.

Mary Boone Gallery, 541 W. 24th St., (212) 752-2929. May 5-June 30.

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