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The Red and the Black: A Note on Alighiero Boetti

FOR ALIGHIERO BOETTI, to be an artist is to travel through opposites, to move in a terrain mapped by the discrepant coordinates of desire and necessity—to lead a double life. The left hand doesn’t need to know what the right hand is doing. In all his work, spanning from 1966 to the present, Boetti has sought to transmit two views of himself. Difference and diversity are manifest not only in his art but in his person: calling himself Alighiero e Boetti (or, in English, Alighiero and Boetti), or creating, for example, a composite photograph in which he appears twice, as if with a twin brother, he has made himself into a being with two heads and bodies. Like two contiguous colors—red and black, say—that work together but keep their individual purity, Boetti’s twin selves bring out each other’s individual characteristics without confounding them. And so the artist walks in parallel with himself,

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