The Alighiero e Boetti exhibition is at Gladstone Gallery until March 23rd, and I have been twice. My life has been full of so many unexplainable synchronistic events that I don’t know why I should be surprised when another crops up, but my relationship to this artist is one of the spookiest. As I wrote previously, I didn’t know Boetti’s work until my dealer at the time, Frank del Deo of Hirshl & Adler, pointed out that some of my paintings were nearly identical to his. This was in 1995; Boetti died in 1994. Of course I looked up his work, and—yikes!—it was like looking at myself. The configuration, the colors, the stylized letters were the same—the only difference was that the Boettis were embroidered and mine were painted. Okay, it could just be those few paintings, but the more I learned about Boetti, the more similarities I found. At the recent MoMA retrospective, for instance, I discovered that he had employed the same way of writing script over script to obscure it that I had, and that he made works with round Avery press-on labels – which I have drawers full. The physical proportion of all of our work is nearly the same. Even the pieces I didn’t do anything like feel familiar, like something I could have done had I followed the thread. This time at Gladstone I found walls full of small pieces that echo a moment in my life when I made small square gridded paintings with friends’ names as gifts….every time I see a piece of his, it’s a shock, like unexpectedly catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror. And what does it all mean? Absolutely nothing. That’s the weirdest part.
Carol Diehl, Journal of a Year, 1995, oil on canvas, one panel of four, each 80" x 48"
OGGI VENTICINQUESIMO GIORNO OTTAVO MESE DELL ANNO MILLE NOVE 100 OTTANTOTTO ALL AMATO PANTHEON INCONTRI E SCONTRI (1988), embroidery on fabric; 40 1/2 x 43 1/2 inches (102.9 x 110.5 cm). Courtesy Gladstone Gallery.