Alighiero Boetti appeared here and there in previous posts, but it's worthwhile focusing once again on this intriguing Italian conceptual artist since there is at the moment an exhibition about him at the London-based branch of Mazzoleni. This gallery has been working hard in the last few years to relaunch quite a few great and, at times forgotten, Italian artists.
The event, entitled "Alighiero Boetti - Order and Disorder" and curated by Boetti's friend and long-time collaborator Rinaldo Rossi and Corinna Turati, could be defined as a cross-cultural exhibition characterised by a collaborative nature.
The exhibition includes indeed quite a few of Boetti's large-scale works from the series "Mappe" (Maps) and "Tutto" (Everything), created in needle and thread by women in Afghanistan and in Pakistani refugee camps after the Soviet invasion in 1979 under the direction of Boetti (1940-1994).
Boetti was born in Turin in 1940, and started exhibiting his works from the late '60s on, alongside young artists such as Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz, Giulio Paolini, and Michelangelo Pistoletto. At the time Boetti employed in his artworks simple materials associated with the city’s growing industrial economy, but reinvented them in radical ways. In 1968 he had an early solo exhibition entitled "Shaman/Showman".
Boetti soon left behind the Arte Povera group to pursue further interests and develop a more complex conceptual language revolving around a vast array or techniques and materials such as printing, embroidery, use of postage stamps and ballpoint pen drawings.
In the '70s, as themes such as politics, geography and information became his main interests, Boetti started travelling back and forth to Afghanistan where he launched embroidery workshops with local groups of craftswomen who helped him creating his first maps of the world and later on his compositions with letters. In Kabul he opened the One Hotel, that soon turned into his home and workplace, and worked with craftspeople making embroideries and rugs.
Geometry and mathematics also became part of his artistic language and, in the following decade, he took part in further exhibitions and designed costumes for theatrical performances. Boetti died in Rome in 1994, leaving behind a vast output that includes several works such as his fascinating monumental tapestry projects.
The exhibition at Mazzoleni includes works from different phases of his life made using a variety of mediums and styles. Embroideries, ballpoint pen drawings and further works on paper are just three techniques with highlights including "Mappa" (1979), the three panels "Smettere in Moto" (1978-79) and "Tutto" (1988-1989).
The exhibition on the lower level includes a series of private documents such as artefacts, postcards, unseen photographs, drawings, handwritten letters and personal notes of Rinaldo Rossi.
This section gives therefore the rare opportunity to visitors to gain an insight into the private life and inspirations of a seminal Italian artist and discover his modus operandi and the various stages in his life that allowed him to develop a very distinctive language.
The exhibition also re-creates "Il Muro" (The Wall): this installation focuses on a wall from Boetti's Piazza di Sant'Apollonia flat in Rome that the artist filled with objects he found inspiring.
His embroidered maps (some of them took a year to be completed, others were developed over a decade) are particularly significant in our politically and complex times: quite often his tapestries turn the world into a flat territory in which affinities and differences poetically coexist in a melting pot, but also remind us that nothing is permanent on our earth when we think about the countries that do not appear on Boetti's maps because they did not yet exist or that are represented but that have changed their political identities (and if we think about these issues the title of this exhibition - "Order and Disorder" - becomes even more emblematic...).
In 2012 Boetti was the first Arte Povera artist to be acknowledged with a solo exhibition at Tate Modern. In the last few years he became once again an inspiration for younger generations of artists, and fashion designers as well.
In Valentino's Resort 2016 and Spring/Summer 2016 menswear collections there were for example leather jackets with colourful intarsia maps of a flattened globe with the familiar outline of the continents.
These piece looked lifted from Boetti's signature works such as his 1979 "Mappa" featured in this exhibition, or his "Map of the World" (1989) from the MoMA collection, and were allegedly inspired by multiculturalism, harmony and tolerance.
In his "Shaman/Showman" event Boetti played with a very arty contradiction - the will of the artist to be a shaman and his role of showman, dictated by the art market. It looks like Boetti's double identity still fascinates us: while his conceptualism and humanism intrigue us, his contemporary aesthetic is influencing and inspiring more commercial fields like the fashion industry, another reason why it's a good idea to visit this exhibition and learn more about him.
Alighiero Boetti, Mazzoleni London, 27 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4HZ, UK, until 31st July 2015.
Image credits for this post
1. Alighiero Boetti, Accanto al Pantheon, 1988; Embroidery on fabric, 114 x 106 cm
2. Alighiero Boetti, Per nuovi desideri, 1977; Embroidery on fabric, 29.5 x 30.5 cm
3. Alighiero Boetti, Piegare e Spiegare, 1990; Embroidery on fabric, 16.5 x 17.5 cm
4. Alighiero Boetti, Tra l'incudine e il martello, 1985; Embroidery on fabric,, 21 x 21 cm
5. Alighiero Boetti, De Bouche a Oreille, 1993; Embroidery on fabric, 18 x 18 cm
6. Alighiero Boetti, AELLEIGIACCAIEERREOBIOETITII, 1973; Ballpoint pen on card on paper, 70 x 100 cm
7. Alighiero Boetti, CIRCOLAZIONI, 1980; Ballpoint pen green on paper, 70 x 100 cm
8. Alighiero Boetti, Mappa, 1979; Embroidery on fabric, 90x130.5 cm
Credits for the above images: Courtesy Mazzoleni London
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