• 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. Main

    I came across Graham Little when going through content from the site, he was one of the first people I ever put on the site about three years ago. To revisit his work reminded me just how much I loved him the first time around, particularly as he’s been very busy in the last few years and has created some absolutely stunning new work. There’s something about the poses, and the calm nature of his nymph-like female subjects that makes me slightly uneasy.

  2. Main9

    I’m the third person to take a turn waxing lyrical about the art of Bryan Olson (he was discussed here and here in the past), but I don’t mind, I’m just happy to have the opportunity. The North Carolina-based artist is arguably the master of his medium; a creator of collages so delicately crafted it’s often impossible to tell they’ve been made from hand-cut paper. Though it’s by no means his only concern Bryan focusses a great deal on the cosmos in his work, leaving strange portals into the unknown at the centre of his images or placing earthly objects within inter-planetary scenes. It’s a heady combination that lures viewers in, making them feel like children gazing at a dense night sky or an adult on one hell of a trip.

  3. List

    The phrase “artistic intervention” has a chequered past, but we’re struggling to think of a more impressive example than Frank and Patrik Riklin’s BIGNIK. The ongoing project aims to build a huge picnic cloth by 2040, made up of 252,144 panels – one for every person in the Appenzell region of Switzerland.

  4. Main

    Sure, here at It’s Nice That we love fine art. You may even walk past us on the weekend ambling around in galleries, or poring over art books in libraries. We champion some of the most exquisite architecture, sculpture and filmmaking along with some of the most groundbreaking works of art made in modern times. What you define as “art” is a personal thing, but I can tell you now that when it came to voting on content for the site (we decide on content via a voting process around a table FYI) this Presidents with Boob Faces was a unanimous “YES” from each knowledgeable, art-loving member of the It’s Nice That team. When you can see hard, skilled craftsmanship and evidence of a brave artist taking one small idea and running really, really far with it, how can you resist loving it? These are amazing, and artist Emily Deutchman should be very, very proud of herself.

  5. Main

    When something is well-designed, be it a magazine, building, fashion collection or car – it should be well-celebrated. To honour the spectacular and cutting-edge design of the brand new Lexus NX, a new digital art exhibition entitled NX-Perspectives has been launched. Gathering together some of the world’s leading creative thinkers, makers and doers, Lexus have assigned them to create a special piece of performance art inspired by the Lexus NX to exhibit in the digital show.

  6. List

    London-based artist Aleksandra Mir has been busy over the past month investigating the process of drawing in a collaborative experiment that invites participants to contribute to a giant collage of the London skyline, rendered entirely with Sharpies. The process of creating the work was part of the exhibition itself, with Aleksandra and her team engaged in drawing everything by hand during the first days of the show. But for those that missed it there’s also a beautiful time-lapse film of the process, providing context and insight to this giant piece of collaborative draughtsmanship.

  7. List

    I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking; “How on earth did that priest train a dolphin to carry him like that?” Or maybe you’re thinking; “Where did the photographer have to stand to capture that image?” Or perhaps, in fact, you’re thinking; “This HAS to be fake.” But all of these lines of inquiry are valid in the world of Joan Fontcuberta, the Spanish artist and photographer who’s latest exhibition has just landed at The Science Museum’s Media Space.

  8. List

    You’re on the internet, so you probably like cats, right? Well, these woodblock prints by Tadashige Nishida capture all of those cat qualities that we love to love: his creepy but cute kittens are unafraid and alert, always listening and sensing, and very delicately, playfully poised. Tadashige renders the subtle lines of a cat’s body against brilliantly bold backgrounds, and it is very difficult to work out just what it is that makes his prints so hypnotically intriguing. Doris Lessing, one of literature’s best cat lovers, describes the curious creatures in the following way: “If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air.” Tadashige captures these dexterous and whimsical cat attributes beautifully in his surprising, minimalist prints.

  9. List1

    The only real auction action we get exposed to regularly is top programmes like Bargain Hunt or Flog It! but recently the whole auction concept has started to be used in a way that removes our cliched expectations of a collection of people (eccentric oddballs) bidding on antiques (old stuff).

  10. List

    As artist mediums go, paper cutting has its limits, right? Fine spindly branches supporting layers of luscious foliage for example might be a challenging one to recreate with scalpel and paper, for example, as might the rippling shadows that fall across swimming pools. Not so if you’re Lucy Williams. The London-based artist is redefining the nature of mixed media artwork with her absurdly detailed paper cuts. No line is too fine, no detail too small for her to recreate, and it’s precisely this unstoppable eye for detail that’s basically crowned her the queen of the method. Her penchant for mid-20th Century architecture and landscapes has taken her work across the world in exhibitions, and her awe-inspiring portfolio spanning no small number of years functions as a fantastic heap of evidence to explain why. Rub your eyes and gaze on in wonderment at these beauties.

  11. Main

    You don’t get many portfolios as rich and as varied as Urs Fischer’s – his somewhat prolific sculptural work ranges from enormous rooms full of objects imprisoned in steel cubes, John Stezaker-esque collages and gargoyle-like characters that look straight out of Labyrinth. But you know, we’re It’s Nice That, so obviously we’re really into the paintings he did of people through history with hard boiled eggs masking their faces. Really though, these are incredibly beautiful pieces of work. Depending on how much you like eggs, they may or may not make you feel a bit nauseous. For me though, this is the best thing ever.

  12. List-

    Opening tomorrow, the Cob Gallery’s new exhibition explores Pastiche, Parody and Piracy in British artwork, exploring the age-old practice of appropriation as a means to explore new ideas. The exhibition has been put together by curator Camilla Ellingsen Webster, satirical cartoonist Jeremy Banx and artist Miriam Elia, partly in response to threats of legal action against Miriam following the realease of her most recent work We Go to the Gallery.

  13. Blotlist

    From what I can gather, these abstract paintings were made by placing the nibs of inky marker pens on top of a stack of paper. The result is an amazing blotted fusion of kaleidoscopic patterns and rainbow colours, which kind of looks like the psychedelic shapes butterfly wing’s make when seen through a microscope.