Critics’ Picks

Alighiero Boetti, Zoo, 1979, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Milan

Alighiero Boetti

Dep Art Gallery
Via Comelico, 40
February 28 - May 26

This show presents a rarely seen side of Alighiero Boetti. In an untitled series of works on paper from 1982 to 1990, all of varied dimensions, the artist applies his Conceptual sensibility to nature and the animal kingdom—a central yet under-examined theme of his output since the late 1970s. Monkeys, panthers, dolphins, frogs, ibexes, tortoises, and other creatures populate an imaginary world in which they become infinitely combinable, not unlike the numerical and linguistic progressions the artist is best known for.

In 1967, Boetti emerged as one of the principal exponents of Arte Povera, the Italian art movement that utilized organic materials and everyday objects. His cerebral approach explored the systems of classification that undergird both daily life and representations of reality. The cornerstone of this exhibition is the large installation Zoo, 1979, which the artist created with his children, Agata and Matteo, over a number of months. The only other appearance of this work is in photographic documentation taken by Giorgio Colombo in Boetti’s studio in Rome after the piece was completed. Made up of scores of small plastic animals, organized by genre, Zoo’s arrangement brings to mind the geographic areas with which the creatures are identified, becoming a sort of zoological counterpoint to Boetti’s celebrated series “Mappa” (Maps), 1971–94, in which various countries on a map were painted or embroidered with their national flags to delineate borders. This show confirms that Boetti is an artist whose richness has yet to be fully discovered.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.