Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alighiero Boetti (the other show on at Tate)

Whilst most of the attention has been on the Tate Modern's Yayoi Kusama exhibition this month (I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago), there's another show on at the reclaimed power station that is not to be missed. Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan has been trundling along quietly since the end of February and whilst Kusama has had the cover of the tube map and Louis Vuitton to push her forward, the Boetti show has relied upon his intelligence and prominence within Arte Povera.

Boetti was part of the Arte Povera group of Italian artists working through the 1960s and became known for his use of existing materials and commissioning his work out to groups of people to complete after he had thought up the original idea. Some of his most striking and well known works are his maps (above) which were made in a hotel he set up in Kabul as an art project between 1971 and 1979. Each map depicting the state of the world at a different time or more detail in a certain area. Check out the insanely cool 360 (if I do say so myself) here.

Many of Boetti's projects were taken to obsessive levels, one project saw him make up a journey for different artists and then post letters to the places he had imagined he had sent them. When the letters were returned to sender, because the artist he was sending them to wasn't there, Boetti would put the letter in a larger envelope and send it on to the next place. When the letter came back again, Boetti would post it off to the next place in an even bigger envelope... you get the idea.

My favourite works are some large boards with very small biro marks on, completely filling the spaces in neat lines, made by a group of students - the different artists visible only by the styles of the biro lines. Within pieces commas have been included to communicate messages which can be read using the alphabet on the side.


I always like going to see shows at the Tate Modern, every now and again you're reminded where you are  as many of the galleries look out over the Thames and St Paul's beyond. Appropriately, the room with the view housed Boetti and his wife's project which extensively documented the thousand longest rivers in the world. Their findings were documented in three quite chunky books (which don't have indexes by the way) and a large canvas with the names of the rivers and their lengths embroidered in a digital-like font.

So after all that I was thoroughly impressed with the show, I wasn't exhausted as much as I felt at the end of the Kusama show - there was minimal reading and you could just get lost in Boetti's works and let the OCD part of your character take over. Like it really needs an excuse!

Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan at the Tate Modern until May 27. Click here for tickets

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