Originally a member of the Arte Povera movement, Alighiero Boetti (Turin, 1940 – Rome 1994) took part in the group’s exhibitions in Turin, Milan and Genoa, among its other foundational exhibitions, and the third Rassegna Internazionale d’Arti Figurative in Amalfi, held in autumn 1968.
From the mid-Sixties on, Boetti moved away from the spirit of Arte Povera and developed a personal and layered art practice that explored, through various means, concepts such as seriality (in binomial repetition/variation), collaboration, with a particular concern for the possible multiplicity of identity (going so far as to call himself “Alighiero and Boetti”), and the cognitive dynamics inherent in the application or modification of the rules that govern all forms of communication. Blurring the distinctions between different disciplines, such as geography, geometry, mathematics, philosophy, literature and politics, and using simple materials, like drawing on graph paper, or conventional techniques, such as weaving, tracing and writing, Boetti superseded the usual distinction between the avant-garde and tradition, as well as between art and other forms of knowledge. By steadily adhering to his motto of “bringing the world into the world,” his works are configured as applied, integrated and shared forms of knowledge of the world and the mechanisms of human thought.
In the mid-Sixties, in addition to using materials industries such as asbestos, masonite, plexiglas, or natural materials like chalk, associated with basic actions such as filling or occupying space, Boetti executed a series of ink drawings on paper which, in defiance of the division between two and three dimensions, reproduced the industrial objects used for recording (microphones, cameras, cine-cameras), as in one of the works in the museum collection. In 1971 Boetti made his first trip to Afghanistan, where he returned periodically down to 1979, and there he started producing various kinds of work, including embroidery on fabric (as in the example from the series Ordine e Disordine, “Order and Disorder”, from 1979, in the museum collection) and his Mappe, maps of the world in which individual nations are depicted using the colors and symbols of their flags (a work that over the years would document the incongruence between the stable form of the world and changes in human geopolitics). The sewing of the embroidery was often delegated to Afghan women. In the Sharanaw residential district of Kabul, Boetti also opened a guest house, the One Hotel, co-managed with Dastaghir Gholam. In 1972 Boetti began a series of works in biro, in which individual sentences were expressed through a reference to the alphabetical sequence in the border (as in the two works in black and blue ballpoint pen in the collection).
Boetti ‘s works have become part of the museum’s collection in the context of Per_forming a collection project and were selected by the Mexican artist Mario Garcia Torres (Monclova, 1975) on the occasion of his exhibition The Boetti Lesson (Searching for the One Hotel, Kabul). The works selected by Garcia Torres included AW:AB=L:MD, a title, as often happens in Boetti’s works, that uses a paradoxical and tautological play on words to express its single and multiple content: superimposing the iconography of Warhol’s Jackie Kennedy series with the mustache Marcel Duchamp stuck on the supreme artistic icon, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, delineates the almost unexhausted multiple identities of that explorer of the world of art and humanity (as they are), of that artist always (at least) double and therefore perpetually performative, as was Alighiero (and) Boetti.
In this interplay of identity allusions, Garcia Torres also intervenes with some of his own works, such as the two plates in which he indicates, separately, the Italian artist’s name and surname, and two postcards. The first reproduces a picture of One Hotel taken in the early Seventies and sent by Annemarie Sauzeau Boetti to Garcia Torres at the inauguration of his exhibition at the Madre. The second reproduces a shot, taken by Garcia Torres, of the Afghan lakes of Band-e-Amir, where Boetti wished his ashes to be scattered, a desire that could never be fulfilled because of the war raging in the country after the Seventies. By sending it to Annemarie Sauzeau, the Mexican artist closed the intimate circle of his relationship of progressive identification with Boetti, taking upon himself the task of exploring and again presenting his human and artistic lesson.