Alighiero e Boetti and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré: Worlds Envisioned

October 6, 1994–June 25, 1995, Dia:Chelsea


This exhibition, a joint project between the late Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, a seventy-year-old artist from the Ivory Coast, was comprised of works by each of the artists. The works borrowed from Boetti cover a span of the past twenty years, and were primarily embroidered work (woven in Afghanistan to Boetti's designs) including maps, the "1000 longest rivers," and small works. Also included were new work produced by Boetti in Abidjan shortly before his recent untimely death. Bruly Bouabré's work takes the form of small drawings on 4" x 8" cards, grouped into sets of 50 to 100 on such topics as scarification, the alphabet, cosmologies, etc. Books and manuscripts by the artists were on view as well.


Alighiero e Boetti

Alighiero e Boetti was born in Turin, Italy, in 1940. He died in Rome in 1994.

Through travels, collaborations, and a variety of mediums, Boetti playfully and systematically addressed the complementary themes of time and space, duality and multiplicity, and order and disorder. In 1967, his first exhibition in his native Turin featured works associated with the Arte Povera movement. The following year he left the radicalized artistic and political scene of northern Italy and moved to Rome. He thereafter started a body of conceptual works signed Alighiero “e” Boetti, introducing the theme of dualism and multiplication in his practice.

In 1971 Boetti first traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he ran a hotel and started a long collaboration with craftswomen in a local embroidery school to make woven kilims of different dimensions and subject matter. His most extensive serial work, Mappa (Map, 1972) is based on an altered academic atlas, with sentences or numbers transcribed around its margins. Illustrative of Boetti’s concern with time and classification, Ammazzare il Tempo (To Kill Time, 1978) is composed of 100 embroidered squares with words organized into grids spelling out variations of the popular expression for coping with boredom. 

His interest in geography and systems led him to postal works. For Untitled. Victoria Boogie Woogie (1972) Boetti addressed letters to himself from various cities in Italy. Following a system based on the different colors of Italian postage, Boetti achieved some 5,040 different combinations that he installed in a grid, recalling Mondrian’s work referenced in the title. Similarly, in Opera Postale (Postal Work, 1980) the act of sending letters becomes a study of numerical progressions and multiplications. In Untitled (January–­December) (1986), Boetti tackles the problem of fixing present-time by faithfully reproducing magazine covers in black pencil drawings.

In 1994–95 the joint exhibition Alighiero e Boetti and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré: World Envisioned opened at Dia Center for the Arts, and in 2014 a display of Boetti’s works was on view at Dia:Beacon.

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Frédéric Bruly Bouabré

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré was born in Zéprégühé, Côte d’Ivoire, in 1923. He died in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in 2014.

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Photo: Ethan Harrison

Worlds Envisioned: Alighiero e Boetti and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré

This catalogue for the exhibition Worlds Envisioned brings into dialogue the works of the Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti and Ivoirian artist/author Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, who share a fascination with taxonomy and the inversion of epistemological conventions.

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