Alighiero Boetti At NYC’s MoMA: Art Inspired By Travel And Geography




Have a look at the map above. In this globalized world, where countries are essentially brands, this map, which uses each country’s respective flag design to delineate its borders, probably doesn’t seem so unusual, save for that large red swath in Asia marked with a hammer and sickle. Created between 1971 and 1972, this “Mappa” is one of the signature works of art created by Alighiero Boetti, the Italian artist whose paintings, kilims, sculptures and mixed media pieces form an exciting exhibition at New York City‘s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan,” which runs at the MoMA through October 1, 2012, is the first major exhibition in the United States of the works of Turin-born Boetti, who made art from the early 1960s until his death in 1994. Associated with the Arte Povera (Poor Art) movement in Italy, Boetti found a lot of his inspiration by exploring travel, maps, geography, stamps and postcards.

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[Photo above courtesy MoMA]In the 1970s, Boetti traveled extensively, particularly to Afghanistan, where he collaborated with local craftswomen to create embroidered tapestries such as the “Mappa,” above. Without a doubt, Boetti’s Mappa series is his most famous, and these iconic, large-scale kilims are displayed in MoMA’s expansive, second floor space along with other tapestries that play with time, numbers, patterns and colors. Another innovative work on display here is “Tapestry of the Thousand Longest Rivers of the World,” which lists the world’s 1,000 longest rivers from largest to smallest. There is poetry in seeing the names of these rivers side-by-side and in a medium beyond the computer screen.

Boetti’s abstract look at geography inspired other works on display on MoMA’s sixth floor, which is where the majority of “Game Plan” is located. One outstanding series is “Territori Occupati (Occupied Territories),” works from the late 1960s in which Boetti collaborates with his wife Annemarie Sauzeau to create outlines of conflict zones and occupied lands ripped from newspaper headlines. Boetti and Sauzeau outlined conflict maps from daily editions of La Stampa newspaper. Then, they embroidered the zones’ shapes along with the newspaper dates, on cloth, creating “stateless” representations of conflict areas, such as the Basque region of Spain, Northern Ireland, and the West Bank, Gaza, and Sinai.

Perhaps the most whimsical of Boetti’s experiments with travel- and geography-related themes is his “Viaggi Postale,” a project that had the artist send 25 friends and colleagues in the art world on personalized travel itineraries through the mail. According to MoMA:

Because the addressee did not live at the destination or because, in some cases, the address was fabricated, most of the envelopes were returned to Boetti on each leg of their journeys. He photocopied the front and back of the returned envelopes as a record, then put each one inside a larger envelope and sent it off to the next destination; once more, many were returned, to be photocopied and sent out again until the itineraries were complete.

Imaginary journeys, maps and approximately 100 other works constituting “Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan” will be on display at MoMA through October 1. Admission is $25 but Fridays from 4-8 p.m. are free.

London’s Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art opens Alberto Burri retrospective

LondonThe Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is one of London’s best small art museums. Housed in an elegant Georgian mansion on a quiet street in the London borough of Islington, it has the best collection of modern Italian art in the city and perhaps the nation.

Its latest exhibition is Alberto Burri: Form and Matter, a retrospective of one of the leading Italian figures in modern art. Burri (1915-1995) started painting while interned in Texas as a prisoner of war during WWII. By the 1950s he was experimenting with common materials such as sacking, plastic, and tar, breaking out of the two-dimensions dictated by traditional painting.

His effect on modern art was huge and spawned many imitators. This exhibition brings together works from a number of museums and rarely seen examples from private collections. Aficionados of modern art won’t want to miss this one.

Alberto Burri: Form and Matter runs until April 7.

Photo courtesy Alex Sarteanesi.

Italian art in London

Italian art, futurism
One of the best collections of Italian art in the world can be found in an unlikely place: a quiet street in the London borough of Islington.

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is housed in an elegant Georgian mansion and boasts a comprehensive collection of Italian Futurist paintings. Futurism was a style born out of the havoc of industrialization and the carnage of World War One. It emphasized the speed and technological advance of modern society.

Typical of this style is Umberto Boccio’s The City Rises, shown here courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This totally blew me away when I saw it at a special Futurist exhibition at the Estorick a few years ago. The people and buildings seem to be swept along by a windstorm of colored motion. It’s currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Other paintings show Futurism’s trading ideas with Cubism, like Gino Severini’s Portrait of Eric Estorick, the museum’s founder. It’s more a study of angles and shading than an actual image of a man.

It’s not all Futurism here and the current exhibition, United Artists of Italy, is a collection of photographs of leading Italian artists. You can also get a taste of Italy at the cafe, where they serve up excellent cappuccinos (hard to find in London) and snacks.