The opening image in yesterday's post was a poster for brand Fioruccino with a drawing of planes in the sky. The main inspiration for that image did not come from fashion, but from art – the poster borrowed indeed an idea that came from Alighiero Boetti's early mural "Aerei" (Aeroplanes, 1978-1989) series.
The latter featured numerous modern and historical airplanes criss-crossing an intense blue background. Though simple, the series is etremely evocative and dreamy. The "Aeroplanes" triptych (1989) will be part of a new exhibition about Boetti opening in May in Venice (on loan from the prestigious Fondation Carmignac, Paris).
"Alighiero Boetti: Minimum/Maximum" at the Fondazione Cini, on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore (12 May - 12 July 2017), is not officially part of the Venice Art Biennale, but very aptly coincides with it.
Curated by the Director of the Institute of Art History at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Luca Massimo Barbero, in collaboration with the Archivio Alighiero Boetti and featuring a special project by Ulrich Obrist and Agata Boetti, the event will celebrate Boetti's art through works selected for the first time according to their format.
"The exhibition enables viewers to explore a non-anthological and highly unpredictable itinerary of relations, unique in its kind, created by bringing together Boetti's large-sized works from public and private collections", explains Luca Massimo Barbero in a press release. "It is the result of a coherent project specially conceived for Venice at a time of great international acclaim for one of the most important exponents of Italian art."
The main point of the curators is indeed to make a series of comparisons and juxtapositions between dimensions and in particular between the "minimum" and "maximum" concepts in Boetti's most significant series, while analysing at the same time the main themes of his output and the various techniques and materials the artist employed such as printing, embroidery, use of postage stamps and ballpoint pen drawings.
The event will be divided into sections with a total of over twenty works from his most significant series "Ricami", "Mappe", "Tutto" and "Biro" (Embroideries, Maps, Everything and Ballpoint pen), to lesser known works such as "Bollini colorati" (Coloured Tokens), "Storia Naturale della Moltiplicazione" (Natural History of Multiplication) and the "Copertine" (photocopied magazine covers).
There are also some previously never publicly shown works, such "Estate '70" (Summer '70) – loaned directly by the artist's family – and "Titoli" (Titles, 1978), while Prada fans will be happy to know that "Mimetico" (Mimetic, 1967), a very early Boetti series, will be on display on loan from the Fondazione Prada.
In Boetti's practice the format is linked to the concept of time, something that resonates quite well in our extremely fast times. The first work on display is indeed "Estate '70", a 20 metre long roll of paper on which Boetti stuck thousands of round coloured stickers. The work introduces the theme of time (to be interpreted as the time required to contemplate a work of art), a theme that returns in "Aeroplanes" (1989).
The area between the first and second rooms will offer visitors the chance to get a break and watch "Niente da vedere, Niente da nascondere" (Nothing to See, Nothing to Hide, 1978), a documentary made by Emidio Greco at the time of the Boetti retrospective at the Kunsthalle, Basel. The video features sequences from the Swiss exhibition with visits to the artist’s Roman studio and comments from Boetti.
The itinerary then resumes with the celebrated "Maps" and "Everything", introducing the themes of travel and nomadism combined with the concept of time and with multi-cultural collaboration, something we should definitely try to learn from Boetti's works. The "Embroideries" were indeed started by his assistants in Rome; then they were sent to Kabul and to Peshawar, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Embroiderers from Afghan refugee families made the works by juxtaposing colours of their own choice but following the rules of the game dictated by Boetti and the works were then returned to Rome, where the artist saw the final results for the first time.
The section dedicated to comparisons ends with the large-scale work entitled "Covers" (1984), which points at obsessive media and the formula of the transmitted and reused image, introducing the special project curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Gallery, London, and Agata Boetti, Director of the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, and revolving around the theme of the photocopy.
This part of the show invites people to imagine the creative uses that Boetti would have found for today's means of communications and multiplication of images. As the artist himself commented in 1991: "Back in 1969 in Turin, when I used to go to the Rank Xerox showroom with coins in my pocket, I got lots of ideas. I used to think that the photocopier was not only an office machine. By the year 2000 we will all have one in our living rooms. Just give me one and I will show you how to put it to creative use. I didn't want to tamper with the mechanism or ink, as some people did from Munari onwards. What I was interested in was the standard application. But, for example, I might have put it outside on my balcony when it began to rain – one drop, ten drops, one thousand drops."
Obrist and Agata Boetti's project - entitled "COLOUR = REALITY. B+W = ABSTRACTION (except for zebras)" - explores Boetti's creative applications by bringing together for the first time a group of works made with the photocopier at various times in his career. According to Hans Ulrich Obrist, they illustrate Boetti’s passion for communication technologies, such as the Polaroid or the fax machine.
Visitors will be invited to use a real photocopier at the centre of the room and create art following the rules of a game specially created by the Mexican artist Mario Garcia Torres to pay homage to Boetti, discovering how the Italian artist, who sadly died prematurely in 1994, anticipated modern search engines and our collective passion for reproducing images.
There will also be some lessons for fashion fans: evoked (as you may remember...) in Valentino's Resort 2016 and Spring/Summer 2016 menswear collections, Boetti's colourful maps of a flattened globe are the product of textile artisans, but also point at a multi-cultural word without any barriers, while his obsession with photocopies mirrors the copy-and-paste world in which we are living now. From a journey into an artist's personal output, "Minimum/Maximum" turns therefore into an exploration of the themes and obsessions our of modern world that Boetti wisely and bravely anticipated.
Image credits for this post
Alighiero Boetti, Aerei, 1977.
Alighiero Boetti, Manifesto, Galleria Toselli, 1972. Photograph Paolo Mussat Sartor.
Alighiero Boetti, Anno 1984, 1984, pencil on paper mounted on canvas, twelve elements, each 39 ⅜ in x59 in). Detail Courtesy Tornabuoni Art.
Alighiero Boetti, Estate '70, detail.
Alighiero Boetti, Mappa, 1989-94, embroidery on canvas, 100x231,49 in. Courtesy Tornabuoni Art.
Alighiero Boetti, Mettere al Mondo il Mondo, 1975, pen on paper mounted on canvas, 62,99x136,61 in. Courtesy Tornabuoni Art.
Alighiero Boetti, Aerei, 1989, ink and watercolour on photographic paper mounted on canvas, 59 x 118 ⅛ in (three elements, each 59 x 39 ⅜ in). Detail. Courtesy Fondation Carmignac, Paris.
Alighiero Boetti, Tutto, 1992-94, embroidery on canvas, 100 ⅜ x 234 ¼ in, detail. Courtesy Tornabuoni Art.