Estate ’70, 1970

In 1969, Turin-born artist Alighiero Boetti (1940–1994) started to turn away from sculpture—a medium he had employed as a member of what is now known as the Arte Povera movement—as he rekindled his love for drawing. He took a fresh approach to the medium, adopting the standardized grid pattern for its limitless configuration options. Boetti took a particular interest in the playful, geometric qualities of the checkerboard. 

Estate ’70, the highpoint of Boetti’s Bollini (“Stickers”) series, is an exemplar of this process of exploration. It consists of six drawings and collages on paper, produced in 1969 and 1970, all of which follow the same rules and design constraints. But the work is conspicuous for its size, with the roll of paper measuring 20 meters in length. It also stands out for its allusion to a specific period of time: its title means “Summer ’70” in Italian, and it was created at Galleria Toselli in Milan, where Boetti holed himself up for several weeks while the gallery was closed for the summer. A regular grid, drawn in pencil on paper, serves as the geometric framework for a collage comprising round colored stickers. Arranged in a standardized pattern, the dots mirror each other on opposite sides of each line. Working zone by zone, the artist experimented with a multitude of combinations of colors and sets, unleashing the joy of variation, harnessing the power of visual flow, and making no apologies for imperfections in his execution. 

With this piece, Boetti operated at the boundary between rules and play, between the constraints of the game and the uniqueness of the player. His approach echoed a renewed interest in play among artists of the period. In the 1960s, figures such as Marcel Broodthaers and Robert Filliou, and members of the Fluxus community more generally, adopted humor as their modus operandi—and the guiding principle of their practice. Likewise, Boetti’s contemporaries in the Art & Language group and the nascent Conceptual art scene took protocol and seriality as the tools of their trade. Boetti, however, stood apart from his peers for his approach: his art has a distinctive poetic quality that stems from his deliberate introduction of chaos and subjectivity into an otherwise orderly rules-based system.

    FONDATION MAMCOÉtat de GenèveVille de GenèveJTIFondation LeenaardsFondation genevoise de bienfaisance Valeria Rossi di Montelera