Alighiero Boetti

A latecomer to Boetti’s work, I have no expertise in it. Right now I’m looking at this grid piece, “Niente da vedere niente da nascondere,” or “Nothing to see nothing to hide.”

Alighiero Boetti, Niente da vedere niente da nascondere 1969

The title really adds something, and bears thought, but at the moment I’m pondering why an artist would become a conceptualist after making a piece like this, as many did. Actually I guess it’s obvious, but then that’s why the question has to asked. And why the only two options are conceptualism or the path followed by Dezeuze, which seems, today at least, to be the less believable. One problem might be the rhetoric of completion, of historical absolutes—the idea of a final gesture. It may be difficult to extrapolate further formal possibilities from an empty grid, but expressive possibilities can never be exhausted by an idea—because they don’t belong to ideas, but to the materiality of artworks—this much Gego makes clear. As Claire Gilman has pointed out, the title is a riposte to Stella’s famous “what you see is what you see,” but by denying that there is any meaning beyond what is there it is also hyperbolic. Boetti abstracted formalism into conceptualism, so this piece is a one off. A mind that glances at painting but doesn’t stay there, and perhaps doesn’t recognize the political meaning of the formalist edge. Important for this piece is that the squares are filled with panes of glass, which distinguishes it from the grids of Dezeuze.

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