Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994), who identified with arte povera early in his career but soon distanced himself from this movement, was a prolific, unclassifiable artist who, trying to avoid any form of artistic self absorption, explored different modes and degrees of collaboration throughout his career. His oeuvre can be placed within the context of relational aesthetics and in his art notions such as multiplicity, duality and division play a key role (thus his decision in 1972 to starting signing his work Alighiero e Boetti) and a balance is sought between the intellectual and the sensible, order and disorder, individuality and collectivity. Fusing conceptual rigour, a vocation towards the experimental and a playful spirit, Boetti always allows chance and coincidence to influence his work. His work, strongly poetic and iconic, uses a wide range of techniques and tools – from drawing and painting to mail art or the production of handicrafts – and it conceives of the spectator as an accomplice or even a playmate.
His never-ending search for dialogue with the other, and his questioning of the vision of the creator as a god-like figure, would lead him to explore non-Western cultural traditions and to engage in different forms of co-operation which, in many cases, resulted in his works of art developing in ways that were not entirely under his control. In estrategia de juego, his first retrospective in Spain, we can see a selection of embroidery pieces and tapestries that he made in collaboration with artisans in Afghanistan and Pakistan, such as Mappa (1971-1994), a set of embroidered creations that form a map of the world in the colours of the flag of each country; and Ordine e disordine (1973), tapestries comprising grids of letters of different colours and sizes. In these and other works, Boetti comes up with the idea and chooses the working methods and the elements that will be used, but he leaves its material creation and also certain decisions about its final composition in the hands of others.
This show, which brings together over one hundred pieces from different moments in his artistic activity, includes some of his earliest productions, still close to arte povera (for example, Lampada annuale, a box of wood with a light bulb that lights up once a year for eleven seconds), and also pieces that are basic to the development of his discourse, such as the mail art piece Viaggi postali or the mysterious and evocative Aerei (1978-1989), which consists of large panels, done in ballpoint pen or watercolour, where numerous airplanes can be seen criss-crossing the sky.
Tate Modern, London (February 28 - May 27, 2012); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (July 1 - October 1, 2012)
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