Go See – New York: Alighiero e Boetti ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery through January 23, 2010

December 13th, 2009

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

Currently on view at Gladstone Gallery’s West 21st Street location is ‘Alighiero e Boetti: Mappa.’ The exhibition is the first retrospective of the Italian artist’s series of hand-woven carpets that depict world maps. Boetti initiated the series in 1969 with a hand-drawn prototype, coloring in each country with its flag. After a visit to Afghanistan two years later, he commissioned a group of women to weave flags until the artist’s death in 1994. Each map typically took one to two years to complete, though the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 halted production for three years and only a few maps were made between 1982-85.

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One of the Afghan women Alighiero e Boetti comissioned to weave his ‘Mappa’ series via Gladstone Gallery

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Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

Boetti originally maintained strict control over the fabrication, constantly correcting errors. But he eventually allowed for a more organic approach, letting mistakes continue and thread colors change, particularly the color of the ocean. A mix of Italian – words of Boetti’s – and Farsi script – excerpts of Sufi poetry chosen by Afghan men –  appear on the maps, which, combined with the mix of artisan  tradition and Western geopolitics underlines the series’ playful political message. While the maps themselves are neutral objects, the shifting borders and changing flags allow the viewer to connect the threads of time, place, and politics.

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

In the upstairs gallery is an exhibition of photographs by Randi Malkin Steinberger. In 1990, Boetti asked Steinberger to travel to the refugee camps outside of Peshawar, Pakistan where the women who embroidered the rugs had been living. As a woman, Steinberger had access to the women’s rooms where Boetti did not.

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

Alighiero e Boetti was born in Turin, Italy in 1940 and is considered an important player of the Arte Povera movement. Boetti added the ‘e,’ the Italian word for ‘and,’ as a conceptual conceit to imply that he was two artists. Boetti has been the subject of a retrospective exhibition at MADRE, Naples in 2009, and other solo exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York in 1994, and Whitechapel Gallery, London in 1999. In 2001 the Venice Pavillon was completely dedicated to Alighiero e Boetti’s work.

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

‘Alighiero e Boetti: Mappa’ runs at Gladstone Gallery at West 21st Street November 7, 2009 through January 23, 2010

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

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Detail of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

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Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

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Installation view of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

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Detail of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery

Related Links:
Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ [Gladstone Gallery]
Alighiero e Boetti at Gladstone Gallery [Washington Post]
Golden Oldies All Over Chelsea [NY Times]