Acquired from the above by the present owner in the early 1990s
Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘One of the Most Important Days in My Life: Alighiero Boetti at Tate Modern’, in: Tate Etc., Issue 24, Spring 2012, online.
The present work is a magnificent exposition of Alighiero Boetti’s deep seated philosophical beliefs, and a distinguished example of one of the artist’s most renowned series – the arazzi (tapestries). Across 625 squares comprised of multitudinous blocks of colour organised around a central black and white nucleus, Boetti deftly engages with constructs of language, mathematics, and the polarity between order and disorder to create a work of mesmerising invention. Like an inscrutable cryptic crossword, the complex system of letters and digits, divided into equal quadrants by a cross rendered in Arabic script, at once compels and repels decipherability. Indeed, the black and white centrepiece can be ‘decoded’ when read from top to bottom, as with East Asian calligraphic texts, to form the Italian title of the work: Oggi trentunesimo giorno dell’ottavo mese dell’anno 1000nove100ottantotto…. Boetti has similarly ascribed mathematical import to the composition of this work through the grid structure itself which, measuring 25 by 25 squares, pays homage to the Pythagorean Magic Square. Boetti revered Pythagoras for the way in which he employed rigorous theorems to schematise and comprehend everything from trigonometry to musical harmony, imposing human order on the disorder of the natural world so as to better comprehend it. Fraught and effervescing, on the one hand, with potential meaning waiting to be unlocked, Boetti’s tapestry, on the other, surpasses the rigid boundaries of semantics, majestically transcending into a sublimely universal syntax based on the precepts of colour, aesthetics, mathematics and form.
Completed only six years before the artist’s death, the present arazzi exists as testament to the extraordinary level of poetic expression that Boetti attained in his artistic maturity. Boetti believed that the world was characterised by the forces of ordine e disordine (order and disorder); and that in order to understand the chaos of the natural world, humanity was forced to schematise and codify it into an organised mode of comprehension. Allied to this belief was his dedication to the notion of twinning or dualism – the idea that every force has a yin-and-yang, an equal and an opposite, and that they act not to subsume each other but rather to exist in harmonious equilibrium. It was because of these beliefs that the Italian artist designed the arazzi in Rome but had them woven in the Middle East, in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. In this way, their split execution was fundamentally based on this balanced duality and entirely imbued with ordine e disordine. As the artist himself proclaimed, “I have done a lot of work on the concept of order and disorder: disordering order or putting order into certain kinds of disorder, or again presenting a visual disorder that was actually the representation of a mental order. It’s just a question of knowing the rules of the game. Someone who doesn’t know them will never see the order that reigns in things. It’s like looking at a starry sky. Someone who does not know the order of the stars will see only confusion, whereas an astronomer will have a very clear vision of things” (Alighiero Boetti cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Alighiero Boetti: Un Pozzo senza fine, 2006, p. 11). Through its vibrant medley of visual signifiers and entrancing conceptual expression, the present work beautifully embodies the strength and potency of Boetti’s unique artistic voice.
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