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Guest Blog: Boetti Exhibit Shows Italian Art Still Resonates

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When people hear “Italian art” generally their minds conjure up images by Michelangelo or Da Vinci. There’s no doubting the impact of the Renaissance, but that period often overshadows what came afterwards and Italy never stopped producing great art. Artists such as Umberto Boccioni, Giorgio de Chirico and Sandro Chia made significant contributions to the development of modern and contemporary art.


This influence is evident in the major retrospective of Alighiero Boetti, now at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City.  Titled, “Game Plan,” and on view until October 1, 2012, this is the largest survey of Boetti’s conceptual work ever mounted outside Italy.  http://bit.ly/L5gSLL  


Boetti, who was born in Turin in 1940 and died in Rome in 1994, emerged in the 60s as a leader in Italy’s Arte Povera (“poor art”) movement.  These radical artists balked against the establishment in politics, business and culture. Boetti became known for sculptures made from found objects and inexpensive materials that made a profound statement on the efficacy of art to evoke an emotional response, regardless of material construction. 


Boetti’s work became more interesting after the confines of Arte Povera no longer defined his vast oeuvre.  He was fascinated with duality and adopted the moniker, “Alighiero e Boetti,” an allusion to both the dual aspect of human nature and of life in general.  (the “e” being Italian for “and.”)  He created a photographic self-portait, I Gemelli, (“the twins”), found at the entrance of the MOMA show, where he superimposed two images of himself holding hands.


Wanderlust influenced Boetti’s best work.  He loved to travel to non-Western countries, including Guatemala, Ethiopia, Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  These travels inspired his most universally appealing works — his Mappe (“maps”), a series of colorful tapestries depicting world maps, many created by local artisans. Two major works from this series were recently auctioned for more than $2 million.


Yet while the Boetti show is significant, it’s not the first noteworthy recent exhibit, or appearance, of an influential Italian artist.  In 2010, another famous Arte Povera artist, Michelangelo Pistoletto http://vimeo.com/17422421, was a keynote speaker at the largest contemporary art fair in the United States, Art Basel Miami Beach.  The same year, a major retrospective of work by Valerio Adami, also associated with Arte Povera, traveled throughout the United States http://bit.ly/aeWHDm


The Boetti show follows on the heels of another major Italian art exhibit in New York, the Guggenheim’s mid-career survey of Italian socio-political artist Maurizio Cattelan, which concluded in January  http://bit.ly/yd85wB   In March, Haunch of Venison, one of New York’s (and the world’s) most prestigious galleries, featured a show of new work by the renowned “Afro” duo of artists Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana http://bit.ly/NdBXVA  If you’re near mid-town this summer, not only can you see the Boetti show, but you can see Paola Pivi’s “How I Roll,” a work touted as the “Most daring public artwork New York has seen in years.” http://bit.ly/NodLSG  MOMA is showing work by another Italian artist, Lara Favaretto, at their satellite in Long Island City, MOMA PS1 http://bit.ly/OELw0S  If you’re in Los Angeles, until the end of August, at the celeb-studded Blum & Poe gallery, you’ll find work by Maurizio Vetrugno. http://bit.ly/Mtm1Uf   


Italian art is everywhere. If you train your eye to look for it, you’ll see how Italy remains as artistically thoughtful and engaging, in groundbreaking ways, as it was in the 16th century.


Contributed by Jenifer Mangione Vogt, an art writer and marketing communications professional who has her B.A. from Purchase College where she studied art history with a specialization in modern and contemporary art.