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signed, titled and dated 'EUCHRE 2017 Louis Fratino' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 2017.
Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
S. Santiago, "Love In The Time of Likes," Cakeboy, pp. 10-11 (illustrated).
New York, Thierry Goldberg Gallery, Louis Fratino: So, I've Got You, September-October 2017.

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Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Louis Fratino is central to the revitalization of figurative painting, and through his graceful slices-of-life, he has created new, more diverse avenues for artistic expression. His tender, intimately scaled Euchre, named after the card game, represents a quiet, yet emotionally replete moment. As Art in America observes, “Euchre depicts a solitary satyr-like male reclining, his back turned toward the viewer, a few playing cards scattered on the floor beside him, the king of clubs most prominent” (E. Sutphin, “Louis Fratino,” Art in America, October 24, 2017). This eye for detail has always set Fratino apart as he strives to impart the luxurious details of bodies and interiors. Euchre is an intimate and technically skilled painting of queer joy, and it inspires us to observe the tiny, life-affirming stories that populate time spent with people we love.

Euchre is a cleverly composed scene depicting a handsome young man playing cards. This moment of respite communicates Fratino’s “compass-free inventiveness, where details…might stagger viewers’ perceptions, even spook them, or disorient with an enchanted, [Marc] Chagall-like flatness” (D. Chew-Bose, “Durga Chew-Bose on the Art of Louis Fratino,” Artforum, March 2021, https://www.artforum.com/print/202102/durga-chew-bose-on-louis-fratino-85008). Fratino’s figure borrows heavily from both Picasso and Matisse and paintings such as Jeune marin II (1906. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The protagonist’s nudity, while attractive in its classicism, seems beside the point; instead, it is a quotidian nudity, the kind that characterizes cohabitating lovers. We cannot see his partner, who must lie just outside the scene; this suggests a narrative, and a longing to find out what will happen next. Laughs, love-making, someone ringing the doorbell? The possibilities for this story are as diverse as desire itself, which Fratino celebrates in all its forms.

In paintings like Euchre, Fratino displays his deep art historical knowledge. As critic Stephen Truax argues, “Fratino’s visions of domesticity, intimacy, and sex, are rendered in the visual language of early 20th-century modernists, like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Marsden Hartley” (S. Truax, “Why Young Queer Artists Are Trading Anguish for Joy,” Artsy, November 7, 2017, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-young-queer-artists-trading-anguish-joy). Euchre, with its intriguing bodily angle, is also in line with the aims of modernist photography. We could compare it to Edward Weston’s famous Pepper No. 30 (1930), which, like Euchre, changes one’s perspective of the body. Weston anthropomorphizes a pepper, while Fratino takes the body and turns it into an amorous sculpture. Also relevant is Man Ray’s Minotaur (1934), which transforms a woman into a surreal, mythical creature. Similarly, Fratino elevates his subjects, often friends and lovers, into archetypes and legends with his virtuosic command of paint. His painterly skill and autobiographical subject matter have garnered international attention from critics, collectors, and institutions.

Euchre is a vision of queer joy, both a portrait and a still-life. Fratino’s penchant for observing and archiving creates an ongoing diary, which he puts into the discourse as an activist gesture. For him, the personal is political, and that generosity allows others to feel empowered in telling their own stories. As critic Durga Chew-Bose observes, “If anything firm can be said about Fratino’s practice, it’s how the artist’s soldering gaze fuses soft power with decelerated, beautiful immediacy” (D. Chew-Bose, “Durga Chew-Bose on the Art of Louis Fratino,” Artforum, March 2021, https://www.artforum.com/print/202102/durga-chew-bose-on-louis-fratino-85008). If painting is the medium of lithe, pleasurable slowness, Euchre is exemplary of this unique formal attribute. These slow afternoons are increasingly necessary as contemporary life accelerates, and Euchre celebrates those opportunities for rest that allow us to step outside of time and space, if only for a little while. Euchre makes clear that Fratino’s media are love, community, and empathy.

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