From April 6 to July 18, 2004, GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo will host the exhibition Alighiero Boetti.Quasi tutto , dedicated to one of the most influential artists of the postwar period.
Exactly ten years after the artist’s death, Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, Director of the GAMeC, and Corrado Levi confront the figure of Boetti: “Organizing an exhibition on Boetti,” he observes, “means taking stock not only of the artist but of our own contemporaneousness, which Boetti proposed to us as anti-rhetorical and anti-celebratory. He invented a way of acting and working that set a model in art for many others – we are thinking of postmodern culture, the example of Francesco Clemente – and in life in general – we are thinking of the topicality of his suggestions about the Orient, of his visits to Afghanistan, where he traveled to have his tapestries made.”

This is the point. Alighiero Boetti is an extremely topical artist . The themes that he confronted over the span of his intense career, starting at the end of the 1960’s up through the mid-1990’s, are now at the center of a debate that involves all aspects of contemporary life: from the concept of the complexity of the relationship with the Other and foreigners, to overcoming boundaries and the role of communication in the society of reproduction.
Boetti addressed these themes with a transversal approach, using different media and techniques. The originality of his artistic expression is also manifested in this: observing his works, we can identify totally unique series, each one different from the others, almost as if they were conceived by several artistic personalities. However, behind so much creative variety lies a precise common theme that unifies and identifies his production. Boetti’s artistic attitude goes beyond the modernist conception of “style” as a factor that identifies each artist in contrast with the others thanks to a series of formally recognizable connotations. In Boetti’s case, Di Pietrantonio and Levi speak of a “free style,” of a freedom in using different tools and techniques that anticipated the attitude – which then became typical in artistic practice starting at the beginning of the 1990’s – marked by the transversal use of the most diverse media, from painting to video, from sculpture to installation.

Boetti’s topicality also resides in this: in his ability to overcome boundaries – not just mental but also geopolitical ones – in a simple way and use himself as the starting point for his work.
Subjectivity is an extensively explored theme in many of the works on exhibition: at a time like the end of the 1960’s, when the debate over how serial production alters our perception of the world had reached its peak (we are thinking of Pop Art in America, England, and Italy), the artist confronts the concept of individuality with the idea of copy, reflecting on the potentials and limits of repetition and the concepts of originality, individual expression, and reproduction.
Some of the seminal works of his career that are featured in this exhibition – specifically AW : AB = L :MD (Andy Warhol: Alighiero Boetti = Leonardo : Marcel Duchamp) , 1967; Gemelli , 1968; Io che prendo il sole a Torino il 19 gennaio 1969 , 1969; Calligrafia , 1971 ;Autoritratto Xerox, and I am am – were conceived by taking the artist’s own body and identity as the starting point of the work. Notwithstanding this, Boetti never used art as an introspective device, as a means for contemplating himself or pure individual expression. Within this conception, the artist’s personality becomes fluid, it is not affirmed insofar as it is unified and given but extends to the other and the entire world, while art becomes the grounds for reciprocal exchange.

The centrality of Boetti’s ego derives strength from his capacity to delegate. One of the best known aspects of Boetti’s work is, in fact, that connected with the works whose execution was commissioned from others: first the Afghan and then the Pakistani weavers for the maps and tapestries; the students of the art academies for the ballpoint pen works, or his assistants for the tracings of the Riviste(“Magazines”) ; examples of all of these series of works are featured at the exhibition. For an artist who, among other things, situated himself as the starting point for many of his works, this can be considered a contradiction. And yet Boetti adopted the delegation of work was one of the cornerstones of his method, in such a way as to emphasize how the artist’s identity is constructed through interaction with the other, through sharing. The artist’s condition is in dialectical relationship between individuality and collectivity, originality, and sequence, I and the world.
The heterogeneity that characterizes the artist’s language is another indicator of the topicality of his work: a blend of techniques that ranges from the millenary culture of Afghan weavers to collage, from photography to drawing and the use of industrial materials in sculpture, to the word and techniques of serial reproduction. All of Alighiero Boetti’s work can be comprehended in light of his attention to life as a field of communication: his is a broad reflection that investigates the expressive function of art, his meaning in society, the ways in which the people belonging to the most diverse cultures give form and meaning to the world, the systems through which they communicate these representations of reality….
It is no accident that his attention frequently focused on alphabetical, linguistic, numerical, and classification systems in a close relationship between writing and image.

Alighiero Boetti. Quasi tutto combines over one hundred works by the artist, starting from his early work in connection Arte Povera towards the end of the 1960’s to 1994, the year of his death. The exhibition project, curated by GAMeC Director Giacinto Di Pietrantonio and Corrado Levi, features a broad selection of works that cover the entire scope of his output, privileging a very close relationship between the observer and each individual work, going beyond any chronological or thematic approach. This curatorial choice, inspired directly by the Boetti’s oeuvre which, who, taken as a whole, goes beyond this thematic-temporal dichotomy, and continuously elaborating “old” and “new” themes in parallel, makes distant times and cultures coexist on the same level.
The aim is to focus the observer’s attention on the uniqueness of each work so that he, by entering into contact with it, can think while he passes through the different rooms of the museum, organized according to the principle of the sweeping scope of each individual work.
Thus, the layout of the exhibition attempts to reproduce the freedom and lightness that distinguish the artist’s sensibility, concentrating on the “wall” dimension and privileging those works where the artist’s personal touch and production were not delegated to others.
Alongside this expressive approach focused on Boetti’s personal execution (which distinguishes series of works like Tra sé e sé , the drawings of the 60’s, Fregio from the 1990 Venice Biennale etc.), we find several historical works from his debut, like the experiments from the second half of the 1960’s on the use of industrial materials and accumulation and repetition as the means of aesthetic production (we are thinking of Zig Zag , 1966; Mimetico , 1966; Frou Frou and Fagus , 1966; Senza Titolo (metro cubo) , 1967; Niente da vedere, niente da nascondere , 1969).
The exhibition also features a series of classics from Boetti’s oeuvre – such as the Storia naturale della moltiplicazione , Cimento dell’armonia e dell’invenzione , several well-known tapestries, maps, embroidered texts, and large ballpoint pen works, etc. – and less known or unknown works that offer a glimpse at less typical aspects of the artist’s output. Standing out among the latter is the folder containing 82 autograph tables in which Alighiero Boetti summarized part of his work, miniaturizing it and rendering it transportable as an imaginary crib sheet of his artistic career.
In September, the exhibition will be shown at the Fundación PROA in Buenos Aires .