Lorenzo Mattotti (1954- ) is one of the most inventive and versatile artists working in comics. His imaginative work has appeared in comics, fashion magazines, art books, animated films, catalogs, posters, children’s books, and art exhibitions. Whether using bold shapes and colors or roughly hewn black and white pencils and ink, Mattotti has become one of the most sought after and recognizable artists in the comic industry.
Born in Brescia, Italy, on January 24, 1954, Mattotti was an avid reader of comics in his youth and was influenced by such creators as Hugo Pratt, Dino Battaglia, and Sergio Toppi. Unable to enroll in art school, Mattotti attended the University of Venice to study architecture, which he credits for giving him practical ideas about space, structure, and the logic of creative work. Mattotti eventually left his studies to pursue drawing comics and began publishing a number of works in the late 1970s.
In the early 1980s, Mattotti, along with several other young artists and writers in Bologna, founded Valvoline, an avant-garde group of artists who sought to press the boundaries of the comics medium. Though involved in the creation of comics, the members of this group worked across various artistic mediums. This same decade saw Mattotti begin to publish a steady stream of comics, some of which were written and drawn by himself, such as the dream-like Mr. Spartacus (Il Signor Spartaco), initially published periodically by Alter, and the richly colorful and deeply psychological Fires (Fuochi), Mattotti’s first album translated into English. Mattotti also collaborated with various writers. With fellow Valvoline member Jerry Kramsky, Mattotti published both Mazes (Labyrinthes) and Doctor Nefasto.
Other collaborative efforts followed. With novelist and screenwriter Claudio Piersanti, Mattotti published Stigmata, a dark tale of a middle-aged, directionless alcoholic who seeks redemption after repeatedly enduring the marks of stigmata. Mattotti’s jagged sketchings intensify the darkness surrounding the central character’s experience. Teaming with Argentinian writer Jorge Zentner, Mattotti published The Crackle of the Frost (El rumor de la escarcha). In this work Mattotti’s sharp colors and visual metaphors reflect the struggles of the protagonist, Samuel, as he attempts to break free from the psychological cages that imprison him. Mattotti again teamed with Kramsky for their retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which received an Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material in 2003. Other notable collaborations include a retelling of The Raven with singer, musician, songwriter Lou Reed and Hansel & Gretel with Neil Gaiman.
Mattotti has also contributed art outside of the comics field. He created the official poster for the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, and he has frequently contributed art to the New Yorker, Vanity, Le Monde, Cosmopolitan, and other magazines. He also provided drawings used in sequences that bridge the three narratives in Michelangelo Antonioni, Steven Soderbergh, and Kar Wai Wong’s film Eros as well as co-directed the animated film Fear(s) of the Dark (Peur(s) du noir). He has published numerous art books and has had his work exhibited at the Tricromia Gallery in Rome and at the Italian Cultural Institute.
–Daniel D. Clark