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Museum of Modern Art exhibition spans the entire career of Alighiero Boetti
Alighiero Boetti (Italian, 1940-1994). Legnetti colorati (Colored Sticks). 1968. Wood, synthetic polymer paint, elastic bands 13 ¾” (35 cm) height; 63” (160 cm) diameter Private Collection. © 2012 Estate of Alighiero Boetti / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome.

NEW YORK, NY.- Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan marks the largest presentation of works by Alighiero Boetti (Italian, 1940–1994) in the United States to date. A full retrospective spanning the artist’s entire career, the exhibition is on view in two locations in the Museum from July 1 to October 1, 2012. Celebrating the material diversity, conceptual complexity, and visual beauty of Boetti’s work, the exhibition brings together approximately 100 works across many mediums that address Boetti’s ideas about order and disorder, non-invention, and the way in which the work is concerned with the whole world, travel, and time. Proving him to be one of the most important and influential international artists of his generation, the exhibition focuses on several thematic threads, demonstrating the artist’s interest in exploring recurring motifs in his work instead of a linear development. In The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition Gallery on the sixth floor, the exhibition features works from the first 15 years of the artist’s career, while works in the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium on the second floor are drawn from the latter part of his career, focused on Boetti’s embroidered pieces and woven rugs.

Working in his hometown of Turin in the early 1960s among a close community of artists that included Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz, Giulio Paolini, and Michelangelo Pistoletto, among others, Boetti established himself as one of the leading artists of the Arte Povera movement. Organized chronologically, the MoMA exhibition begins with his sculptural objects, comprising everyday “hardware store” materials including wooden sticks, cardboard, and fiber cement tubes. Brought together (many for the first time since Boetti’s seminal exhibition at Galleria Christian Stein in Turin in 1967) and installed in a dense configuration inspired by the original clustered presentation, these early works convey the material experiments of the period and already suggest notions of measurement and chance that Boetti would play with and revise throughout his career.

While Boetti is often chiefly affiliated with the Arte Povera moment, this exhibition considers Boetti beyond these brief years. In 1969 Boetti began exploring notions of duality and multiplicity (famously ‘twinning’ himself into ‘Alighiero e Boetti’), order and disorder, travel and geography, and he initiated postal and map works imagining distant places. For the work Viaggi Postali, begun the summer of 1969, Boetti sent envelopes to friends, family, and fellow artists but used imaginary addresses, forwarding each returned envelope to yet another non-existent place, thus creating imaginary journeys for the people he admired. The exhibition brings together this and other works related to travel, geography, and mapping, many of which relate to his extensive travels to Afghanistan, where he operated the One Hotel as an artist’s project from 1971 until the Soviet invasion in 1979 (archival materials from that project is on view). During this period, Boetti began working with local artisans to produce embroideries such as the Mappas (maps), Arazzi (word squares), and Tuttos (literally, “Everything”), culminating in his multi-year research project to classify the 1000 longest rivers in the world: an idea equally poetic and scientific, rigorous and absurd.

An important aspect of Boetti’s oeuvre is drawing, which runs as a constant throughout his work. A monumental Biro (ball point pen) drawing from 1973, spelling out the title “Mettere a mondo il mondo (Bringing the world into the world)” points to some of Boetti’s ideas about art making that were fundamental to his practice: that the artist, rather than inventing, simply brings what already exists in the world into the work; and that everything in the world is potentially useful for the artist.

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