Ping vs. Pong

Ping vs. Pong

Yes, this is a review of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. No, I have not recently (or ever) been to New York (don’t remind me, I’ll just get depressed). But while procrastinating writing my dissertation this week, I discovered the wonderful realm of online exhibitions. As amazing as Dunedin exhibitions are, it is nice to take a little artistic vacation into the virtual international art world.

Alighiero Boetti is deep. Seriously deep. His artwork, a colourful assortment of embroideries, sculptures, drawings and collages, represents a lively fascination and engagement with political warfare, mixed media, Italian culture, and philosophical underpinnings. The Game Plan exhibition illustrates the way in which Boetti favours opposing or differing pairs, often in order to highlight the significant contrast between the two concepts. His embroidered work “Mappa”, for example, both traces both the symbolic passage of time through its many recreations and visually portrays physical space through its depiction of the countries of the world. Experimentation with philosophical ideals, subject matters, and tools and materials lend Boetti’s work a charming air of multiplicity, eccentricity and vibrance. His most detailed and complex embroidered artworks like “Mappa” contrast with his minimalist drawings, the majority of which were created with only frottage (not the dirty kind) and light pencil work.

In MOMA’s online exhibition Boetti’s works are displayed alongside one another in a highly aesthetically pleasing and visually dynamic manner. The eye of the viewer traces a path from sculpture to sculpture and tapestry to tapestry. You’d think that a collection of forty or so images on one webpage would be visually overwhelming. Surprisingly, it isn’t. Each work feeds off and leads into another, creating a comprehensive visual encyclopedia of Boetti’s idiosyncrasies. An untitled collage at the top of the exhibition is made of seemingly mundane materials — plexiglass, cork, fabric, metal, and the ink of a ballpoint pen — that express Boetti’s insistence on building artworks from everyday, ordinary resources in order to create a new sculptural language. It’s an approach that aligns perfectly with Boetti’s own words, featured at the top of the exhibition: “First of all I prefer thought. This is the basic thing. I really think manual skill is secondary… It’s taking things from reality. Everything, however small and humble, always has a beginning and stems from reality.”

Another example of Boetti’s signature style is the enigmatic “Manifesto”. It features a list of young Italian artists from the 60s grouped according to differing visual symbols. Boetti claimed the symbols had significant meanings, but if they did he certainly never revealed them. It has been retrospectively concluded that Boetti most likely intended that the symbols remained a puzzle, prompting viewers to resist the urge to categorize these artists, and emphasizing Boetti’s interest in order and disorder. Often wordplay in his artwork expresses this very trope. Seemingly strange and incomplete arrangements of phrases and letters are produced through Boetti’s experimentation with meaning and understanding.

Take a break from Facebook, because everyone needs one of those, and have a browse through Boetti’s intriguing world. You’ve got an all-access pass straight from the comfort of your bed, living room or university library.

Game Plan
by Alighiero Boetti
Museum of Modern Art Online Exhibition
This article first appeared in Issue 16, 2012.
Posted 5:14pm Sunday 15th July 2012 by Beaurey Chan.