Growths of the Earth: Louis Fratino @ Ciaccia Levi, Paris
Every time we hear, or better get to see, a new Louis Fratino exhibition, we experience this mixed sense of admiration, pleasure, and disbelief, and his current presentation at Ciaccia Levi in Paris, Growths of the Earth, feels like a culmination of such sensation. Comprising ten new paintings "in which the artist muses on moments of interstice and transition," the body of work marks somewhat of a transition from his previous focus of interest while creating pictures of the same if not higher quality.
Following his last two New York solo presentations with Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in 2019 and 2020, the Brooklyn-based artist is back in Paris where he last presented all ceramics works. Borrowing the title from Walt Whitman’s poem Song at Sunset, Growths of the Earth marks Fratino's all-paintings comeback to the gallery three years after his acclaimed debut and introduces both his autobiographical and somewhat escapist-like works. The paintings such as An Argument, 2021, Four Poster Bed, 2021, or Naked You, 2021, are "classic Fratinos," deeply personal and revealing images of people he knows and loves, through which the artist is placing the viewer into his most personal spaces. But as much as those private life snapshots are portraying moments in between, before or after a certain activity, in this show the artist is looking the similar dynamics outside his own life dynamics. And this is where this presentation takes your breath away, as the artist manages to translate the same quality of his intimate, domestic scenes while depicting something as common as a landscape, a flying bird image, or a floral assemblage motif. Known for working from memory alongside art historical references, this particular body of work feels like a culmination of such a method with a great emphasis on the aesthetics of American and European Modernism.
Likely results of the constraints and weirdness of the past year, these new motifs feature the same velvety surfaces, intricate textures, and delicate light and color plays that are all together constructing an emotion-filled atmosphere of physical stillness and pictorial spectacle. Known to be working with a goal to present his visuals as close to his own experiences as possible, Fratino's suggestive scenes are allowing the viewer to confront these sights through his eyes. Whether it's an elegant black-headed gull graciously gliding over the dunes in Laughing Gull, 2021, sunlight putting on its miraculous performance in October 2021, and/or Creek, 2021, or portraying a still life miniature in Conch and Tickseed, 2021, the artist manages to place these diverse visuals all within the same world of his ongoing oeuvre. At the same time, these works are displaying a wide range of abilities with the paint as well as diverse interests in the subject matter which is further underlined with the different scales of works in the show. From the preciousness and intimacy of Conch and Tickseed, 2021, Barn Swallow, 2021, or Naked You, 2021, to the flamboyance and grandiosity of Large Flowers, 2021, or Four Poster Bed, 2021, Fratino still feels like "a poet of a painter," capable of creating both haikus and epics. —Sasha Bogojev
After this exhibition the artist will be focusing on his first institutional solo exhibition, Louis Fratino: Tenderness revealed, curated by Jared Ledesma, which will open at the Des Moines Art Center on November 13th, 2021.
All photos © Courtesy the artist and Ciaccia Levi, Paris
Photograph: Aurélien Mole