• Picture-6

    L’insensata corsa della vita, (1989)

  • Picture-62

    L’insensata corsa della vita, (1989)

  • Installation1

    Installation View: Ground Floor

  • Picture-4

    Onnimo, (1974)

  • Picture-42

    Onnimo, (1974)

  • Picture-3

    Insicuro Noncurante (detail), 1966-75

  • Picture-5

    Millenovecento settanta, 1970

  • Picture-8

    Cinque per Cinque Venticinque,1986

  • Picture-7

    Calendari, 1989

  • Boetti_puzzle_12771_large

    Cieli ad alta quota

  • Ab_watch01
  • Installation2

    Installation View: Top Floor

  • 303
Art

What's On: Alighiero Boetti

Posted by Charlotte Simmonds,

Opening on the same day of Alighiero Boetti’s retrospective at the Tate Modern, Sprüth Magers’ downsized showcase provides a respite from the maddening crowds. The gallery worked with the artist for over 20 years and their natural affinity is apparent in the exhibition’s quietly celebratory presentation. The Italian artist, famed member of Arte Povera who broke away to do his own thing, developed an understated and indosyncratic style throughout 1960s and 1970s. Best known for his hyper-bright embroidered maps, his work is joyful and meticulous, often hiding complex meaning behind a playful facade.

The front room is given over to Onnimo (1974) and Dossier Postale (1969), both rarely shown. The former is a multi-part series of ballpoint pen drawings, almost meditative in quality, so exacting and repetitious is the pattern of blue, inky strokes. The latter is an experimental correspondence project – the artist wrote a number of letters to artists, gallery owners and collectors, then sent them to imaginary addresses – which of course meant they were returned to him unopened.

A pointless gesture? Rather, it seems, a demonstration of the lengths the artist went to prove a point of absurdity and improbability, even if it was just to himself.

The application of handicrafts such as weaving and sewing became more prevalent as his style developed. I’d like to imagine these skills evolved in a bustling Italian household full of grannies mending tablecloths and knitting shawls, but sadly not. In reality it was more his travels through Asia, Africa and the Middle East that began to blur the boundary between “art” and “craft” in his practice.

L’insensata corsa della vita (1989), part of his Mappas series, conveys best what is so likeable about Boetti as an artist. Expressing both political and personal themes of a changing world, and a changing identity, Boetti’s tapestry genuinely embraces multiculturalism (local Afghan artisans embroidered the piece), while its accessible, even feminine beauty lends a sense of gentleness. It’s work that says a great deal without shouting in your face.

The exhibition also draws attention to the lesser known aspects of Boetti’s practice. Who knew the man was a designer? Not me, but a glass case of objects displays Boetti’s dab hand at graphic, product and fashion design. There’s a selection of monochrome watches with a face that displays only four numbers (though not necessarily in any correct order). And a jigsaw puzzle in a pleasing sky-blue hue dotted with tiny white airplanes. And an encyclopedia cataloguing the world’s 1,000 longest rivers – both a beautiful object and an intriguing read (though, due to the glass partition, I was frustratingly unable to turn the page.)

The lower ground floor is dedicated to Il Muro, a wall in Boetti’s home where he collected letters, photographs, drawings, objects and other found curiosities, a sort of “inspiration board.” It offers a glimpse inside the mind of the man – a man who collected postcards and made frottage out of used envelopes. It makes me like him even more, it also makes clear his inherent love of beauty.

Everything he did, from letter writing to list-making to mathematical calculations, displays an unforced attention to aesthetics, a capacity to make the world around him as visually pleasing as possible.

Boetti seems a kind and careful artist, unafraid of completing work that defies immediate comparison and shuns clear cut meaning while remaining entirely likeable. I admire him for that. Sprüth Magers have done him a great service – wise to offer not a competitive but an alternative show, and perhaps a more personal take on Boetti’s work. I imagine that he, in some respects, would have even preferred this understated presentation to the hustle and jostle that may characterise the Tate show.

Portrait11

Posted by Charlotte Simmonds

Californian Charlotte joined us as an editorial intern after studying at New York university and London Metropolitan University. She wrote for the site between January and March 2012.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. Karinhagen-itsnicethat-main

    Pottery has had a bit of a bad rep until recently when people have slowly begun to realise that it’s FUCKING BADDASS. The pottery world is creaking under the weight of the amount of thrill-seeking clay-spinners popping up all over the place making vessels for cool people to put their cacti and fennel seeds in, and so we thought we’d highlight a few people who are taking the clay world by storm. Think for a minute, if you will, how few kilns there are on this earth, and how many universities have in recent years completely shut down their ceramics department due to lack of funding and demand. Then get your head around how these guys manage to create such brilliant work at such an astonishing rate while still keeping up their day jobs. Seeing as pottery is well trendy right now, I thought I’d run down a list of my personal favourite pot-heads out there.

  2. Jr-newyorktimes-itsnicethat-list

    It’s always a joy when two creative forces we like collide and produce something that harnesses their collective talents. We’re huge fans of the team at The New York Times Magazine (so much so we interviewed design director Gail Bichler for the new issue of our Printed Pages magazine) and we love the work of JR, so the coming-together of the two was right up our street.

  3. List

    Have you ever wondered what the world might have looked like after the great Old Testament flood? What bizarre events might have followed such a freak occurrence in weather? Me neither. It’s honestly never crossed my mind. But illustrator Samuel Branton has been fixating on the idea, imagining the strange fusion of land and sea that a tumultuous rise in water levels might effect. He’s gone one step further and illustrated these fictional scenarios in miniature, taking this Regency medium and making it weird. Witness crabs beating up a wild boar, monkeys tossing an elephant in the air and a sad old sperm whale incapacitated in a tree. And Deluge is available in book form too!

  4. Aakash-itsnicethat-list

    When we last wrote about Aakash Nihalani we described his practice as a series of interventions, and now that he has graduated from playful street art compositions to full blown technological mind-blowers, that vaguery seems even more apt. His newest piece sees him create a series of interactive installations which respond to the movements of the subject stood in front of them. The video demonstrates it better than I could ever hope to, so wrap your eyes around it and try to keep your jaw off the floor. Aakash is entering a new age, people; just imagine the possibilities!

  5. Ines-longevial-itsnicethat-list

    Inès Longevial is an art director and illustrator based in Paris, whose beautiful paintings of intertwined bodies are likely to have you looking twice. She breaks up the human figure into segments in a fashion Picasso himself would admire, rendering different parts in contrasting but muted colour palettes to disguise the physicality of her subjects. The effect is quite beguiling; hands play across hips and colour distinctions hint at the seams of clothes, but nothing is clear cut. It’s a geometric play on anatomy, and it has clients including fashion brand Amélie Pichard and sportswear giants Nike coming back for more.

  6. Hannahwaldron-itsnicethat-list

    “I wish I knew how to weave,” I found myself sighing longingly while clicking through Hannah Waldron’s portfolio. The UK-based multi-disciplinary artist and designer has transitioned seamlessly from grid-based image-making to create works in textile form since completing an MFA in Textiles at Konstfack, Sweden, and it looks like she’s well at home in the medium. Map Tapestries is a series of woven works inspired by various city scenes – Kreuzberg, NYC and Venice, for example – in bright colours, evocative shapes and simple geometric forms, and it’s wonderful.

  7. Jen-stark-whirl-side-int-10

    If it isn’t broke then there’s absolutely no need to even think about fixing it, as artist Jen Stark is fully aware, and there’s nothing broken about her geometric papercut sculptures. The LA-based artist has been making such work for literally as long as It’s Nice That has been running – here’s the first time we ever posted about her, back in 2007 – and although her work continues to grow in intricacy, she’s stayed true to her roots. These days her sculptures are made more and more often inside huge, unassuming black and white boxes, recreating the feeling that you’re a child about to unbundle a giant parcel of joy on Christmas morning, and they’re still as impressive as they were eight years ago.

  8. Everybody-razzle-dazzle-1-photo-mark-mcnulty-int-list

    Sir Peter Blake has designed this fabulous dazzle ship, a Mersey Ferry that will carry commuter passengers for the next two years. Named Everybody Razzle Dazzle, Sir Peter says it’s his “largest artwork to date,” and that he was “honoured and excited to have been asked to design a dazzle image for the iconic Mersey Ferry.”

  9. Boyocollage-int-list

    Some budding young design talents fresh out of university might harbour resentment about being thrust into a new job at a design studio as a “photocopier boy” (his words), but Patrick Waugh is not one of them. Instead he took full advantage of the rich archive at his disposal in his earliest and most junior jobs to make copies. Lots of them. And then took a scalpel and some masking tape to them, and transformed them into something altogether more exciting.

  10. Stephenabela-int-main

    At first, Stephen Abela’s images are all glorious bronzed bodies, sun-drenched beaches and hazy holiday reveries. But beneath the heat, there’s something else at play too, which feels a little more disquieting. In that oft-cited Edward Hopper thing: even in the densely populated scenes there feels like there’s a loneliness. Even the speech bubbles are lonely – in fact, they’re vacant – suggesting that for all the beautiful scenery, the folk that populate it aren’t quite sure what to say or what to do. There’s a joy there, for sure, but the great thing about Stephen’s work is this complexity, and the sense that all isn’t necessarily as it seems.

  11. Int-list-carsten-holler-pic

    Merging the fun of the playground with the beauty and cerebral qualities of art, a slide will transport visitors to the Hayward Gallery entrance this summer thanks to the forthcoming Carsten Höller show, Decision.

  12. Traceyemin-mybed-int-

    Sometimes I don’t really “get” modern art, but I get Tracey Emin’s My Bed. She displayed it as a piece of art in 1998 after practically living in it for about a month following a bad breakup. Back then she was rake-thin and impish with an appetite for booze and fags, in that odd age where you’re left to fend for yourself but are not perhaps quite ready.

  13. Serenmorganjones-int-list

    With the centenary of British women receiving the partial vote coming up shortly, artist Seren Morgan Jones decided it was time to focus on the Welsh suffragists who helped to make it happen. “I think it is important to show that there is more to Wales and its history than coal mining, rugby and men,” she explains, “and to draw people’s attention to the fact Welsh women were so involved in the fight for women’s rights.”