Alighiero e Boetti

Galleria Lucio Amelio

In the 11 works shown here Alighiero e Boetti once again stages his divided self as the work’s protagonist. This time he has used mirror images of a simplified self-portrait, an emblematic figure of the artist as “artificer” that has appeared in his work since the mid ’70s. The very title of the show, “Tra se e se” (Between self and self), is a reference to Boetti’s two specular images, which close off the upper and lower borders of all 11 of these paper-on-canvas pieces from 1986. The viewpoint is from above, showing the artist’s head in black silhouette and his two outstretched hands holding a pencil, the primary tool used to create these works. Why between his two hands? Because Boetti always uses both hands for working: the right one for drawing, the left for writing, or vice versa. And he also uses writing that goes in either direction, from right to left or from left to right, as a sign of a duality of continuously interwoven interpretations and meanings.

Between the two silhouettes there is a succession of outlines of geometric figures placed one after the other—circles, triangles, rectangles, diamonds—and daubs of india ink and pure color in the interstices between them. The geometric forms are produced by making rubbings of common objects which, when traced, reveal only their surface without any reference to their function. The object, passed through the filter of the idea, comes to be altered beyond recognition. The drawing is nothing but the delimitation of a negative/void generated by a positive/solid, now invisible. Boetti thus declares the impossibility of identifying the things of the world; the data drawn from reality can’t possibly be translated, either objectively or emotionally. The only permissible route is the most complete neutrality. In keeping with this, the objects Boetti used were taken randomly from the daily accumulation of things on his work table; and at the end of the cycle, Boetti threw away all the objects used, to make the signs unrepeatable, just as an engraver does when he destroys the plates after a printing. The india ink and colors were applied without the mediation of a brush, after which the daubs of ink were smudged with a piece of paper and then pressed lightly, while the drops of liquid color ran into each other naturally, without the intervention of the artist. There are also two small, red circles, one on each side of the complex structure, which Boetti painted with a brush; the color is a combination of three different reds. These two circles represent the glance of the artist turned inward toward the work and outward toward the public.

Either within or just outside some of the figures are phrases of words that are difficult to read, which Boetti has inscribed using his left hand. One of these, near the center of each sheet, is the phrase “Questo e it primo” (This is the first) or “Questo e it secondo” (This is the second), etc., up to the 11th, referring to the order in which the works were executed and measuring the internal tempo of the sequence of sheets. But it also symbolizes a fixed point in the composition and determines a moment of stasis in the vertiginous apparition of forms and colors. The apparent disorder of the writing is nothing but the manifestation of a stream of consciousness, here barely contained within the limits imposed by the drawn forms.

Keeping in mind that Boetti is everything but a painter, and that he very often delegates the execution of his work to third parties, it is especially noteworthy that here his desire to impart a painterly identity to the works, connoted by the delight in color and by the free invention of the forms, comes together with his habitual conceptual stance. The search for differences within repetition, which is a constant in Boetti’s activity, is best expressed in this work. Even if many silhouettes are repeated in the various sequences, no one sequence is ever similar to another. This is also one of Boetti’s most involving works, for it mirrors the viewer’s own intrinsic duality. It imposes a conscious analysis of the forms in their specific structural sequence, while at the same time it encourages the suspension of deliberate thought, a sort of happy alteration of consciousness. This uninterrupted flow of interior data constitutes the final significance of this cycle of works, where formal beauty is the equivalent of conceptual organization.

Ida Panicelli

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.