• 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. List

    Way back in 2011 when we first posted the work of Frank Magnotta It’s Nice That was a very different beast – we’d only give you one image to check out and the rest was up to you. So when I stumbled across Frank’s work again this week it seemed essential that we show you a whole lot more. To be honest there have been few updates to his site in the past three years but the work is breathtaking, pulling together pop culture references, architectural precision and some serious Americana and combining it into stark surrealist landscapes. At times grotesque but always engaging, Frank’s graphite artworks are still some of the finest around.

  2. List

    Jean Jullien is many things. Artist. Illustrator. French. Recent emigre to New York. It’s Nice That favourite. So hot right now. He’s also the final artist to have a show at Kemistry Gallery’s current east London home before it closes its doors early next year (although as has been reported it has some excitingly ambitious plans).

  3. List

    American artist James Rieck paints models, but not in the way you might expect. In his huge colourful canvases he takes figures from adverts and recreates them four or five feet wide, capturing their clothes, their postures but not their faces.

  4. List

    These painted scenes from Paige Jiyoung Moon are so wonderfully intricate, a new detail pops out each time you see them. Capturing domestic scenes like people drinking coffee, friends watching a film or a family eating lunch together, it’s the mundanity of what Paige paints that makes her miniature worlds so inviting as the viewer tries to pick out some sort of irregularity.

  5. List

    It’s been a whole two years since we last posted about the marvellous work of Lynnie Zulu and we’re happy to have the illustrator’s vibrant world colouring our dull Monday once again. Her latest body of work is on show now at No Walls Gallery in Brighton and is a fantastically lively exploration of the female in all her glorious forms.

  6. List-tatiana-bruni_-the-drunkard_-costume-design-for-%e2%80%98the-bolt%e2%80%99_-1931_-courtesy-grad-and-st-petersburg-museum-of-theatre-and-music

    We’re no ballet aficionados, but we wouldn’t usually associate drunkards, typists and factory workers with the grace and poise of the discipline. However, as these beautiful gouache painting by Tatiana Bruni show, there’s much more to ballet than tutus and swan lake, with her angular figures, bold colours and sometimes grotesquely postured characters. The paintings show costume designs for Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1931 ballet The Bolt, and are going on show at London’s Gallery for Russian Arts and Design alongside a series of period photographs. The ballet itself was bold and striking in its use of real hammers, machine-inspired choreography, aerobics and acrobatics, and the costume images are equally as dynamic, inspired by “the aesthetics of agit-theatre and artist-designed propaganda posters”, according to the gallery. The sense of movement is palpable, whether in the graceful billowing dresses or the staggering legs of our brightly-coloured drunkard, working against the geometric rigidity of the style to beautiful effect.

  7. List

    The announcement that David Lynch is to release new episodes of Twin Peaks in 2016 was, unsurprisingly, met with internet-breaking levels of excitement. Soon, every Tommy, Dale and Henry Spencer was walking around their independent coffee shop knowingly harping on about their “damn fine cup of coffee” and popping that heartbreaking Angelo Badalamenti theme on the office stereo like they’d actually watched every episode back in 1990, when they were five.

  8. List-studio9

    Not since we saw the Doge meme IRL on a street in Hackney have we been this excited by the face of a strange dog. Now, we’re excited by many strange dog faces, thanks to what looks set to be a brilliant show by Wilfrid Wood. Wilfrid’s work has long been a favourite at It’s Nice That, and has over the years included sculptures of Tom Daley and Paul McCartney and numerous bottoms for Levis.

  9. List-31_wl-work-01

    Man of many talents Will Edmonds has some great new work on his site in the geometric shape of these colourful framed pieces and paintings on wood. There’s a childlike simplicity against a more grown-up restraint in the works, which draw you in with colour and keep you there with the deceptively intricate layers. The works were created for an exhibition entitled A Watery Line at The Tetley in Leeds in summer 2014, where he was also showing sculptures and ceramics.

  10. List

    London is a brilliant city, but in the winter months it can be a grey and grizzly place to live. That’s why artists like Steve Wheen, aka The Pothole Gardner, are so important in bringing a little colour and joy to our day-to-day lives. To promote Uniqlo’s new HEATTECH range, which has been specially developed with leading textile manufacturer Toray, the clothing brand is showcasing creative types who take on the urban outdoors come rain or shine, from foodies and cyclists to graffiti artists.

  11. List

    I can’t quite believe that it’s two years since we last featured Alex Roulette’s work on the site because he’s undoubtedly one of our favourite artists working today. The New York based painter creates scenes which “explore the blurred sense of time and place within memories” and he’s a master of the atmospheric. Looking at his paintings feels like beginning a dream when you’re pitched into a situation conjured up by your subconscious and yet instinctively know broadly where you are and what’s going on.

  12. List-2

    I’m sticking by my claim that the beach is one of the most fascinatingly liminal places going; you arrive, you take off (almost) all your clothes and you lie down, play volleyball and splash next to strangers with the same idea, and nobody thinks anything of it.

  13. List

    These painted shapes from Berlin-based Frau Grau are just wonderful with their rich, vivid tones and excellent composition. I really like the organic and uneven shapes, with each one refusing to tesselate neatly with its neighbour. The formation and assembly works fantastically, laid out like a detailed study of jewel-like pebbles and rocks found on an imagined coastline. It’s this ambiguity about what the artist is actually depicting that interests me so much.