Alighiero Boetti's Mille Gibboni di Tutti i Colori, 1984, is a playful, experimental work on paper that gives insight into the complex and tireless mind of the artist. Although much of Boetti's oeuvre was executed by others as part of his conceptual practice, he produced hundreds of works on paper himself, in his studio, that kept pace with his rapid thoughts and pictorial investigations. Boetti employed various techniques with these works on paper, including frottage, stenciling, tracing, blow-painting, origami, photographic reproduction and spray painting.
Mille Gibboni di Tutti i Colori, 1984, consists of spray-painted and stenciled apes, their elongated arms seemingly swinging from a diagonal line of text and a grid form. The colourful circles that populate the sheet were made by dipping elastic bands in paint and randomly dropping them onto the paper, embracing notions of chance. The work feels at once whimsical and cryptic, chaotic and structured - embracing the duality for which this artist is celebrated.
The depiction of animals curiously figured into Boetti's work over many years. In 1979, Boetti, aided by his young children, spent month creating Zoo, an elaborate installation in his studio in Rome of hundreds of plastic animals grouped by genus, exhibiting his keen interest in classification, order (and disorder) and collaboration (often with children). By 1980, animals such as dolphins, frogs, gibbons, panthers and turtles began to appear in Boetti's own works on paper, their forms made of origami or cut-outs that were often traced, spray-painted, photocopied and collaged to make chaotic, esoteric scenes. As Mark Godfrey explains, the animals were "the means for him to express both his frustrations with everyday existence and his desire for an alternative situation where the speed, movement, intuition and sensory capacity of animal life could characterize human life. Of course, the qualities that Boetti was drawn to in these animals were the stuff of cultural representation as much as of biology; none the less, nature (even if it was nature known through culture) began to serve for him as a way to criticize culture." At the Venice Biennale in 1990, Boetti was awarded a prize for his room in the Italian Pavilion in which he created a frieze of colourful animal imagery.
Private Collection, Milan
Exhibition catalogue, Paris, Tornabuoni Art, Alighiero Boetti, 19 March - 5 June 2010, p. 137, illustrated in colour Mark Godfrey, Alighiero e Boetti, New Haven and London 2011, p. 274, illustrated in colour