If the notion still persists today that art is genuine, clear, and simultaneously enchanting, then such conviction brings to mind the beautiful poetry by Sandro Penna, where the pure happiness resides in loving the world simply with a white notebook under the sun. Just as with Penna, whose verses emerge from a serene darkness to suddenly reveal themselves in their fresh brevity, the same must be said for Louis Fratino (1993, Annapolis, Maryland, USA), the creator of subjects distinguished by innate dignity and transparent refinement. Following this path, the project conceived by Litografia Bulla in Rome takes shape in the context of the initiative named Passaggi, a series of exhibitions set up in the window on the street of the workshop.
On the occasion of this proposal, the lithographs by Louis Fratino are exhibited until December 3, 2023 and accompanied by the book Sleepless traveler, curated by Tim Moore – a co-production by Bulla, NERO editions, and conceived with the support of the Galerie Neu in Berlin – aiming to gather a selection of Penna’s poems in English, translated by Tim Moore and poet the Jahan Khajavi. About the lithographic works, those titled Fanciullo and Fish Market are a production by Litografia Bulla, while the other seven were designed to accompany the aforementioned publication. What emerges from this fruitful and evocative initiative is how, for both Penna and Fratino, life is the conquest of naturalness and the suddenly seized moment. Although they cultivate different art forms, they are unexpectedly united by the absolute purity and classicism of their tone, now sung in poetry and drawn in lithography.
The exhibition is the most appreciable union between verbal expression and vision, thanks to the clarity of Fratino’s technical virtuosity and the innovative ideas by Beatrice and Flaminia Bulla, creators of Passaggi project. So all works produced in lithography do not originate from a mechanical relationship or creative hypnosis; rather, they find space and development in an encounter between the artist and the entire workshop. This may make us reflect how much behind such choices is evident the identity character of Litografia Bulla, which upon publication of the illustrative text intended to enhance its contents with a public reading on opening night by Louis Fratino, poet Elio Pecora, Tim Moore and Jahan Khajavi. Thus, all those involved in the project are likely aware of having created something impure, bold and sharp, as protagonists of expressions that cipher between rigor and energy, of action paths expanded to the history of literature in a cultural context such as that of Litografia Bulla, characterized by complex artisanal stratifications. Therefore, what has been conceived for Fratino solidifies into the construction of a sturdy action program, echoing an evaluative act understood as a moment of irrational taste and daily stimulation of critical energies.
Although all the exhibited lithographs bear witness to an attention to the ordinary, visually narrating glimpses of honesty and pure curiosity, Fratino does not want to be subversive with lithographic techniques. Instead, he focuses on the mark and its essence, aiming for a pictorial rendering where everything is exact, alive and sharp, yet at the same time, deceptive, because profoundly mysterious. Thus, even though the works originate from a structured serial number, they live in the ways and limits of manual production. This choice is distinguished by a rhythmic selection that responds to a harmonious and extremely elementary exhibition logic, in which the subjects present themselves as flat toy-like silhouettes with naive and flattened views. Yet, this is evidence of a truly ingenious way of thinking about the scene, where the transgression of the perspective rule, as it is often the case with Fratino, is sought to nourish itself from the fertility of this violation.
This attests to a creative and persuasive thought, wherein the exhibited work in the showcase titled Fanciullo, portraying a face in its physical majesty enclosed in itself, is brimming with hidden charisma. This lithograph is to be studied with a great inner smile because, out of pure love for diversity, the artist passes off what is naturally and effectively altered as normal, as evidenced by the unreal size of the eyes and the distorted proportion of facial features. And also here, Fratino visually echoes what Penna stated, «so only those who are different are happy, but woe to those who are different, being ordinary». This interest in incredible dissimilarity reveals an identity of a Fanciullo remarkably pure in a lost gaze, just veiled by a thread of melancholy, making us doubt whether it is a tormented spirit not yet abandoned by its pain. Furthermore, the rendering of the lithographic technique, played on the alternation of soft and sharp chiaroscuro, gives a rugged, almost cavernous character. The absence of a spatial background structure leads us to perceive the portrait not as a simple image but as a venerated icon. Moreover, figurative minimalism, along with the subversion of perspective, purifies the representational sphere, triggering a mechanism that intrigues anyone who observes it for its blatantly unconfessed and individual character.
The elevated and evocative expression of intimacy present in Fanciullo is not found in the lithograph Fish Market, where the scene is surreptitiously illuminated by a sporadically speckled light, with a deliberately violated perspective to lend authenticity to a subject devoid of prestige. Nevertheless, a pleasant fascination is still perceived, a logic of existential disorder in an organized still life according to a vaguely dispersive internal coordination, yet described with cheerful and lively compactness. How could a work like this follow an internal criterion while remaining brimming with life? Simply by following Fratino’s radical will to violate the rules of complexity, to naturally love everything in the world, as long as it playfully hides in mystery and is then revealed through a simplistic spatial order. Thus, all the lithographs in the exhibition radiate genuine warm and limpid rays of sunshine, fitting into a place like that of Litografia Bulla, where the patterns of habit are shattered, and the world appears laden with new meanings, teeming with echoes of poetics and harmonious creative resonances.
Maria Vittoria Pinotti
 Sandro Penna, Poesie scelte e raccolte dall’Autore nel 1973, Oscar Moderni, Milano, 2022, p. 91
 Pavel Florenskij, La prospettiva rovesciata, a cura di Adriano Dell’Asta, Piccola Biblioteca Adelphi, Milano, 2020, p. 20
 Sandro Penna, Poesie scelte e raccolte dall’Autore nel 1973, Oscar Moderni, 2022, p. 103
Louis Fratino e Spleepless traveler
6/10/2023 – 3/12/2023
Via del vantaggio 2, 00186, Roma
Dal lunedì al venerdì dalle 9.30 alle 13.00 e dalle 14.30 alle 18.30
Maria Vittoria Pinotti (1986, San Benedetto del Tronto) is an art historian, author, and independent critic. She currently is the coordinator of Claudio Abate’s photographic archive and Manager at Elena Bellantoni’s Studio. From 2016 to 2023 she was the Gallery Manager in a gallery in the historic center of Rome. She has worked with ministerial offices such as the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Culture and the Central State Archive. Currently, she collaborates with cultural sector magazines, focusing on in-depth thematic studies dedicated to modern and contemporary art.