Detail of Alighiero e Boetti’s ‘Mappa’ at Gladstone Gallery
Currently on view at Gladstone Gallery’s West 21st Street location is ‘Alighiero e Boetti: Mappa.’ The exhibition is the first retrospective of the Italian artist’s series of hand-woven carpets that depict world maps. Boetti initiated the series in 1969 with a hand-drawn prototype, coloring in each country with its flag. After a visit to Afghanistan two years later, he commissioned a group of women to weave flags until the artist’s death in 1994. Each map typically took one to two years to complete, though the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 halted production for three years and only a few maps were made between 1982-85.
Boetti originally maintained strict control over the fabrication, constantly correcting errors. But he eventually allowed for a more organic approach, letting mistakes continue and thread colors change, particularly the color of the ocean. A mix of Italian – words of Boetti’s – and Farsi script – excerpts of Sufi poetry chosen by Afghan men – appear on the maps, which, combined with the mix of artisan tradition and Western geopolitics underlines the series’ playful political message. While the maps themselves are neutral objects, the shifting borders and changing flags allow the viewer to connect the threads of time, place, and politics.
In the upstairs gallery is an exhibition of photographs by Randi Malkin Steinberger. In 1990, Boetti asked Steinberger to travel to the refugee camps outside of Peshawar, Pakistan where the women who embroidered the rugs had been living. As a woman, Steinberger had access to the women’s rooms where Boetti did not.
Via:[ArtObserved * lots more images and info after the jump]