This is a key work in Boetti’s oeuvre and links back to my previous posts about Postal Works.
This piece needs some attention in order to be fully appreciated and I need to say that I regret it has not been shown in the #GamePlan retrospective @MoMA @Tate and @ReinaSofia.
This is a pivot work that Boetti made in 1970, a piece that would revolution forever all of his future pieces.
All “Postal Works” with permutations of stamps and all works with mathematical rules and schemes are derived from this seminal piece.
Its title is “Permutazione di 5 colori” (Permutation of 5 Colours) and shows all the possible permutations of five colours arranged in groups of five lines. All possible combinations of the five colours have been illustrated. Colours dancing on a “carta quadrettata” graph paper surface.
It is a poetic and artistic visual representation of a mathematical concept.
The work at first sight might look pretty minimal, even banal, but after paying attention to it it really drives you into Boetti’s future oeuvre.
This is Boetti’s first work dedicated to inventing a mathematic system as a form of his art.
Alighiero Boetti had been part of the Arte Povera movement from 1966-7, yet by 1969 he got fed up with it and wanted to explore new possibilites. He also wanted to start from zero again, so he decided to go back to basycs: a common sheet of graph paper and a pencil. The “Cimento dell’armonia e dell’invenzione” (Contest of Harmony and Invention) was about over-writing by pencil the whole grid of the graph paper: this could be done as freely as possible and in many ways as possible as far as each line and squares could only be traced one time (link).
Boetti worked on this seminal cycle from 1969 to 1970. It was a very conceptual body of works but did not yet include any forms of mathematical schemes, combinations or calculations.
Using the same graph paper, in 1970 Boetti created the present work “Permutation of 5 Colors” (47,5 x 66 cm), the first work ever to draw the mathematical theme into the artist’s world, with his characteristic playful approach, to become one of his future signature works.
Further developements of researching the visual beauty of a mathematical concept will lead from 1970 on to Postal Works with permutation of stamps (link), and to a large variety of works that have a mathematical approach like “Natural History of Multiplication, 1974-75” (link), “Alternating frome One to 100 and Vivecersa” (1977 link, 1993 link).
The first time I saw “Permutazione di 5 colori” I honestly need to say I underestimated it. Now I have fully understood not only its beauty and its importance but the deep impact this piece has had on all Boetti’s oeuvre.