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Bruno and Bill – Massimo Martini

Works from 1989 to 2001

Friends and editors were chatting about the new catalogue of Bruno’s works.

And they started “fishing” in the web of his lifetime.

Smiling, but not too much.

“…horrid man wearing spats, insult me in the square, play havoc with me, so I can be recognised, the next day, and the next, like the one who…

It would have been the height of snobbery for a bashful and pure painter.

And a shrewd critic just says: … sublime art transcends vulgarity…

But these are slippery times.

And when Irene remembers how Bruno was about to be chosen as the young actor in Truffaut’s “Les 400 coups”:

– it seems like an exam for everyone

– everyone looking for connections

– in that chain of certifications that leads to Calvino’s knickerbockers

– that

– together with Pavese, Einaudi and our man

– plus a faceless fifth

– is leaning against a low wall with an out-of-focus view of the Langhe countryside

– that very docs of docs

– that closes the circle of cultural desires.


We know for sure that Nada Malanima loves Bruno’s painting.

We also know that we are alone in this valley of tears.

And that Nada took flight, hung from a steel wire, moved by a Nobel prize.

While Rome is falling heavily on us.

Coffees go round.

Irene gets up, goes home, turns and looks back, says to Bruno: come here, Valentino Zeichen is on the phone.

(Valentino, just like the great Mazzola.)

Waiting for a painter

– kind of short

– with lively eyes

– from the north

– who makes tiny, tiny paintings

– abstract paintings

– that he sells for a hundred thousand lire each

– so he can make a good enough living

this painter nearly whispers

– we knew that art is a convention that follows set rules

– we knew that the road to change these rules is impassable and glamorous

– but no one told us of the pain in keeping within the rules.

The pain in keeping within the rules.


Keeping the light-hearted words of the painter of the tiny, tiny paintings in the basket of pride.

But the next day there were other things to think about, such as the strong north wind, that cleans the beach of debris and gives a clear view of the islands, large and small, across the way.


Producer Amedeo Pagani engaged Bill Clinton for a cameo role in his next film by Theo Angelopulos.

During a brief stop in Rome, during the former president’s trip to Athens, a visit to Bruno Lisi’s studio was planned.

Full stop.

my dear President, please come in

it is an honour for me to pay a visit to an artist I don’t know, and I’m sorry to have taken such a long time

rather than pay a visit to me, I prefer you to look at my painting, piled here on the floor

when I see paintings on the floor I have doubts, anxieties and uncertainties

this may be my only defence when faced with a confrontation… you see

but I do like clear and open relationships, tell me Bruno, what is your kind of painting

I paint colour


it seems to me that you paint material

then let’s say that I paint material that brings colour

let’s say, material that by convention is considered colour

the one in the tube

nothing more than that


you have convinced me: I paint material because of its being colour

the brush is, we could say, ascetic in your work

the brush, as you see, takes its own advantage

that’s true, it’s at the centre of attention just as one who officiates at rites

ask me no more, I’m not ready to become a conceptual

come now, cross the threshold, abandon that material that you already call immaterial colour

goodness you’re cool, you’re really cool, Bill


what can I do for you, Bruno, more than thank you for having received me


send me some capers from Greece

did you say capers

yes, I said capers


OK for Greek capers and… ciao Bruno

ciao Bill



But Bill’s forward flight into the atmosphere didn’t lessen the solitude of the occasional writer. That casual word kept appearing: “conceptual”, a candid provocation which came up out of the instincts of a lunar conversation. Work could be done on it.ì


Maybe like this.

1- I don’t like to describe the effects of a gesture when the gesture is explicit.

1’- And… I’m not interested in looking for secrets in instigated chance happenings.

2- Everything in Bruno leads to an explicit gesture, mostly a “slow gesture”, that “comes and goes”.

2’- And… such a clear situation as to look like there are no ways out, in an elsewhere of meaning.

3- John Cage says: “Let’s say he isn’t a Duchamp. Turn him upside down and he is.”

3’- And… Sol Lewitt: “The meaning I give to the term conceptual art has something to do with the way artists work and it tends to emphasise the idea rather than the result.”

And therefore.

Leaving each reader to imagine how.

Why not prefigure, starting right now, the day in which.

Accepting an expanded destiny, well beyond Benjamin as is already customary.

Bruno, poised in mid-air in the little fig-tree square outside his studio, right near the telephone wire where one summer night a rat lost its balance and fell onto stunned and disgusted dinner guests (who then executed the rat). Bruno, like a new Christ, like a new Christo, turning to his multiple disciples who have come from all over, in the act of raising his painter’s hand, murmuring in blessing: “…go and repeat in my name…”

(Translated by Helen Pringle)

(from the catalogue of the exhibition, “Opere dal 1989 al 2001”, Galleria A.A.A. Palazzo Brancaccio, 26 November 2001-26 February 2002)