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Life Is Beautiful

Alighiero e Boetti made art with a sense of humor -- from age six until the year he died

Many of Boetti's works have the artist himself as the conceptual grounding point. For Calligraphy (1971), Boetti had the names and addresses of everyone in Italy who shared his phone number elegantly engraved on a brass plaque. Oddly, the stock exchange in Milan made the list. The piece has a mocking gravitas and looks as if it should be commemorating something terribly important.

Boetti also immortalized two dates, both in engraved brass and in the fanciful embroidery of the Afghan women. One date, the 16th of December 2040, was exactly 100 years after the artist's birth. The other was his hoped-for date of death, July 11, 2023. He would have been 82 years old. Unfortunately Boetti missed the mark by 29 years; he died in 1994 at the age of 53. The brass plaques seem important and momentous; how could his body have the audacity to give out and defy the pronouncement of such an authoritative-looking object? It's unknown whether Boetti revealed the significance of the dates to the embroiderers, but the 2023 date has a hopeful ascendancy to its floral pattern.

Afghan women embroidered two important dates for Boetti: his hoped-for date of death and his 100th birthday.
CAM
Afghan women embroidered two important dates for Boetti: his hoped-for date of death and his 100th birthday.

Details

Through October 6; 713-284-8250
Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose

The latest work in the show presents Boetti in the form of a seven-foot bronze statue. His face looks aged, and he wears a slightly rumpled and conservative suit. The image is a far cry from catalog photographs of the young, hip, sunglassed Boetti, resplendent in au courant velvet. The statue holds a hose in his hand, dousing his fully clothed self with water. As the fine spray of water runs down his face, steam rises from the heated bronze head. It's a self-portrait that negates the egomania of bronze statuary with a wry, self-aware wit.

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