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 Alighiero Boetti, Peshawar Textiles, Randi Malkin Steinberger.
The Women Behind Alighiero Boetti's Peshawar Textiles - ArtLyst Article image

The Women Behind Alighiero Boetti's Peshawar Textiles

28-02-2012
 
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More than 18 years after the death of Italian artist Alighiero Boetti, the Arte Povera artist is having a long over due traveling exhibition, which is set to shed new light on his varied body of work. The show has just closed at Madrid's Reina Sofia and is currently at Tate Modern, London ( 28 February - 27 May) before moving on to MoMa in NY. This highly antisipated show is bound to attract a new generation of appreciation to Boetti's joyous work.

A dazzling, multi-layered photo essay on the unseen story behind the making of this seminal artist's (embroidered works) is available for the first time. In this monograph, (Boetti by Afghan People: Peshawar, Pakistan, 1990) the international web of artisans who made the arazzi, comes into focus, through the work of American photographer Randi Malkin Steinberger. In 1990, Steinberger traveled to Peshawar, Pakistan, with Boetti's blessing, to document how the Afghan refugee women realized the embroideries which Boetti had outlined. Steinberger, traveling with a Boetti assistant, followed ''the journey of the cloths'' into the craftswomen's workrooms as they brought color to these spectacular works. When Steinberger returned to Rome, she and Boetti worked together to choose 55 color photographs for a future book. Now, two decades after the photos were taken, they are being published for the first time in this enlightened edition.


Boetti often said that he considered his art a way to communicate across the globe, and that the resulting works were owned as much by the women who realized the embroidery as by the artist himself. Now, their story is revealed, and their work can be celebrated as Boetti intended.
Steinberger’s photographs are published in Boetti by Afghan People: Peshawar, Pakistan, 1990, conceptualized when she traveled in 1990 to Peshawar, Pakistan, with Boetti’s blessing to document the process of the making of his embroideries. Due to Islamic cultural traditions, Boetti himself could not visit the women in their homes, where the embroideries were made. Steinberger though was given  unprecedented access to follow “the journey of these cloths” from the shop of the antique dealers who served as middlemen into the craftswomen’s workrooms as they brought color and life to these spectacular works. When Steinberger returned to Rome, she and Boetti together selected 55 color photographs for a future book.

Now, two decades after the photographs were taken, they have been published for the first time to tell the story behind the making of some of Boetti’s most iconic and monumental works, including the Mappe, textile maps of the world.
Boetti often said that he considered his art a way to communicate across the globe, and that the resulting works were owned as much by the women who realized the embroidery as by the artist himself. Finally, their  story is revealed and their work can be celebrated in print, adding a new dimension to Boetti’s seminal works.

Alighiero Boetti (1940-­‐1994) was one of the most important and influential artists of his generation. A leading Italian conceptual artist and a member of the Arte Povera movement, Boetti is best known for a series of embroidered maps of the world, Mappe, created between 1971 and his premature death in 1994.
Randi Malkin Steinberger is an American photographer and documentary filmmaker, whose work has been shown around the world over the past 25 years. A published author and curator, she has published two books of her collaborations with renowned artist Alighiero Boetti. Accanto al Pantheon, published by Prearo Editore in Milan, and Boetti by Afghan People: Peshawar, Pakistan, 1990, published by RAM Publications & Distribution. For more information please visit: http://www.randimalkinsteinberger.com.


Alighiero Boetti (1940-­‐1994) was one of the most important and influential artists of his generation. A leading Italian conceptual artist and a member of the Arte Povera movement, Boetti is best known for a series of embroidered maps of the world, Mappe, created between 1971 and his premature death in 1994.

Boetti was active as an artist from the early 1960s until his passing. He developed a significant body of diverse works that were often both poetic and pleasing to the eye, while at the same time steeped in his diverse theoretical interests and influenced by his extensive world travels.

Born in Turin, Italy, Boetti was the son of a lawyer and violinist. His favorite authors as a young adult were the German writer Hermann Hesse and the Swiss-­‐German painter and Bauhaus teacher Paul Klee. Boetti also had a continuing interest in mathematics, music and philosophy.

He abandoned his studies at the University of Turin’s business school to pursue a life as an artist. Self-­‐taught, Boetti studied artists Lucio Fonatana, Arshile Gorky and Mark Rothko. Influenced also by his travels and philosophy, Boetti was searching for his own artistic identity when he went to Paris in 1962 and trained auto didactically.

From 1963 to 1965, Boetti began to create works out of then unusual materials such as Plexiglas, light fixtures, plaster and other industrial materials. In the late 1960s he was considered to be part of the Arte Povera movement, known for its use of modest materials and techniques.

Captivated by a journey to Afghanistan in 1971, Boetti purchased a small hotel in Kabul and called it One Hotel, which operated from 1972 to 1979. He was especially passionate about non-­‐western cultures, particularly in central and southern Asia and he traveled to Guatemala, Ethiopia, Sudan, and made numerous trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Boetti often conceived of an idea for a work of art but left its execution to others, recruiting people to carry out his ideas and giving them freedom in their contributions to his works. These works known as arazzi developed from his own previous artistic practice with what he came to appreciate in the traditional skills of Afghan embroiderers. From there he started an artistic collaboration with women embroiderers in Afghanistan until the Soviet invasion (1979), and after that in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, creating tapestries such as the Mappe, his political maps that would evolve according to the world’s political mutations.

In his prolific career, Boetti produced a remarkably heterogeneous body of work that is currently undergoing an enthusiastic re-­‐appraisal and appreciation in the United States and abroad. His works and his choices as an artist have influenced the generations of artists that followed in Italy and around the world. Visit Tate Exhibition

 Photo: Randi Malkin Steinberger from Boetti by Afghan People: Peshawar, Pakistan 1990


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