The Chicken or the Egg Theory of Gladstone Gallery

by Art Fag City on November 7, 2007 Reviews

Alighiero Boetti, Autoritratto (Mi Fuma Il Cercello), 1993-1994 Cast bronze, fountain system and electric heating element; 74 x 36 x 29 inches, Image copyright Gladstone Gallery

I suppose I find the edition size of the sculpture pictured above objectionable because I find the work utterly unmoving, but I really don’t see any reason to have seven of these things available for exhibition. The number can probably be attributed to Alighiero Boetti’s desire to distribute his work as widely as possible through the humblest means, though clearly the sculpture above indicates that by the end of his life, the latter half of that mandate had become less of a priority.

For those who are interested, Gladstone currently exhibits this sculpture in tandum with a number of other generative works by the artist. Autoritratto (Mi Fuma Il Cercello), the aforementioned bronze figure holding a water hose over his head contains a heated element which presumably makes the water steam off the work, an aspect lost at the gallery, since it’s either too subtle to be be noticed, not working, or turned on. Whatever the case, I’m not sure either would answer the question the show inspired yesterday; Does Gladstone makes the work of major contemporary artists look garish, or do established artists at Gladstone make garish work? Recent exhibitions by Richard Prince, Gary Hill and now Alighiero Boetti, don’t bode well for either party.

Alighiero Boetti, Installation view, Image copyright Gladstone Gallery

Adding to the sculpture I mentioned I didn’t like, five million woven works fill the main gallery, co-opting the artistic message of the canvases to read as little more than “for sale”. I suppose those pieces themselves are okay, but who can tell when you’re being beat over the head like that with visuals? The remaining quarter of the exhibition miraculously saved the show; an impeccably hung room in the back featuring Boetti’s trademark ball point pen-quotation mark drawings in ocean blue, a carpet map, and a woven hanging map, beautifully expressing visual metaphors of space, geography and language. Now if only we could get someone at Gladstone to remark upon this success, and repeat it.

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