Alighiero Boetti began his Biro series in 1972, a project in which scores of assistants and students were commissioned to take turns methodically filling sheets of white paper with rows of minute hatch marks in ballpoint pen, leaving no white of the sheet exposed except for the cryptic letters and symbols Boetti had allocated to be reserved as negative space. These laborious collaborations resulted in sublime monochromatic works with a variegated, vibrational quality, achieved by the varying hands making the marks, and revealed the coded wordplay that preoccupied Boetti in all of his work. Some of the biro works can be deciphered by aligning letters of the alphabet with commas scattered throughout the sheets while others contain a single word or phrase spelled out at the top of the sheet.
Boetti's Ononimo, 1975, is rendered in undulating hatch marks of velvety black ink with its title exposed along the upper edge. 'Ononimo', a word playfully invented by Boetti that combines the Italian words anonimo (anonymous) and omonimo (homonymous), referenced his radical notion that the authorship of a work of art is not dependent on its physical production, underscoring that much of his body of work was delegated to 'anonymous' artisans whom he never met; though conversely, their roles in executing Boetti's ideas, whether with the tapestries or Biros, are what give essence to his output. It was the exploration of such novel ideas and practices that make Boetti one of the most pioneering and influential conceptual artists of the 20th century.
Paolo Curti Collection, Milan Private Collection, Naples Private Collection
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Origine et Destination, Alighiero e Boetti - Martin Hübler, 18 February - 3 April 1994, p. 58, incorrectly illustrated upside down and in blue instead of black
Jean-Christophe Ammann, Alighiero Boetti, Catalogo generale, Opere 1972 - 1979, Milan 2012, vol. II, p. 179, no. 673, incorrectly illustrated in blue instead of black