Yesterday’s post talked about the great Italian artist Alighiero Boetti and the impact he had on a whole generation of Italian painters, art in Italy and the global art scene. The first half of this post will finish our summary of his artwork, while the second half will let you know the best place to see his work (psst – it’s the Tate Modern, which is holding a new retrospective). But more on that later, oh sneaky parenthesis. We’re going to look at the period known simply as 1972-1994, where Boetti disassociated himself from the Arte Povera movement and moved to Rome.
This period is interesting because the artist renames himself as Alighiero e Boetti (“Alighiero and Boetti”). Why? Well, artists are notoriously self-reflective creatures, much like the way Degas, Mondrian and Rembrandt all changed their names at one stage or the other. But Boetti had a specific goal in mind: he wanted to truly and wholly reflect the clashing factors in his work: error and perfection, order and disorder and finally, the individual and society. Such motifs can be seen in the work Ordine e Disordine which in English means Order and Disorder or Order is Disorder, and Fuso Ma Non Confuso, which means Mixed but not Mixed up. The idea in some ways is not new and brings to mind the familiar adage: master your fear, or your fear will master you. This idea of linguistic wordplay is also something he would develop in the coming years.
The late 80s brought another period of change, this time in the way Boetti utilised linguistic puns, puzzles, codes and tricks in his artwork. For example, I sei sensi (The Six Senses), 1973, is made up of a series of drawings done in code. Boetti provided the viewer with the master code in the form of an alphabet laid out on the left side of the paper. He then drew commas horizontally to match each letter of the alphabet, the ultimate meaning related to the six senses (not too much sleuthing needed there). Nevertheless, it was a refreshing take in a relatively stale period of Italian modern art.
His final distinct set of artwork isn’t so much a phase, but rather a body of work. We are of course talking about Mappa, which the artist first conceived on his second trip undertaken in 1971 to Afghanistan. While there he started the art project One Hotel, which resulted in the large and colourful embroideries with the countries of the world and their national flags. These maps will feature prominently in the Tate Modern’s exhibition on now until May 27. Other interesting artworks will include his iconic Self-Portrait 1993, which has never been displayed before in the United Kingdom, oil paintings, and a life-size bronze cast of the artist hosing his head with a jet of water. We can’t wait.