Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

Boetti and me

March 2, 2013 - 4:37pm -- Carol Diehl

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. 


That is super eerie. I think you should look further into the synchronicity. I know you say it means nothing, and I know the book "The Black Swan," which I read while traveling, will concur, but I still don't believe it. Random events to me, when they share that kind of intense similarity or connection, portend or point to something significant. Maybe it's a sign of your own talent as an artist and encouragement to continue on your current path so that one day you'll have a retrospective at MOMA, too I don't know. But whether Nicholas Taleb is correct, that random events are meaningless, I think it's more fun to make them mean something and to use that interpretation for good.

You say " And what does it all mean? Absolutely nothing." Are you kidding me? It means everything. To be so closely attuned with another human being's whole aesthetic and mode of expression is a priceless gift. Worth researching in depth (alas, he is no longer among us) If I had discovered such a resonance, I would be jumping up and down with excitement and pursuing every exploration. It is eerie, but it is thrilling at the same time. Only you know what went into yours, but to realize that another human being was at the same place, albeit with minor differences, is a revelation of a very high order. I'm excited for you.

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