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Esso Gallery


Show title: HELICOPTERS, TANKS, PORTRAITS, FLAGS AND MAPS: RUGS from AFGHANISTAN "BOETTI STYLE" January 22 through February 26, 2005


Curator: Filippo Fossati, Jennifer Bacon, and Kevin Sudeith


" Art in Review; 'Rugs From Afghanistan' By HOLLAND COTTER Published: February 11, 2005

Installation views

Esso Gallery and Books 531 West 26th Street, Chelsea Through Feb. 26

In 1969, the Italian conceptual artist Alghiero Boetti (1940-1994) designed a world map, with each country represented by the patterns of its national flag as if that were its essential identity. Boetti then commissioned weavers in Afghanistan, where he traveled frequently, to embroider the map. Updated versions were produced over succeeding years to reflect territorial changes. The last map under Boetti's supervision was completed in 1993, after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

While the extended project was in progress, Afghanistan itself experienced drastic changes. The Soviet invasion sent many people to Pakistan, including weavers, all of whom are women. The fraught conditions inspired the invention of a genre of ''war carpets'' incorporating images of guns, tanks and warplanes. And the so-called ''Boetti style'' took on a commercial life of its own in rugs.

The Esso show, put together by Kevin Sudeith, a dealer and collector, is made up of both styles, as well as hybrids of the two. Although war carpets have been international commodities for some time, those here are unusually ambitious in scale and design. In the earliest, dated 1983, checker-patterned helicopters hover over images of animal-filled parks and palatial buildings, themes adapted from traditional models. The same weaver is responsible for woven portraits of contemporary political leaders on view in the gallery's second room.

And Boetti's political maps enjoy a dynamic afterlife. In one large example woven in Herat, Afghanistan, in 2002, the national flags are border elements and the countries are identified by name and chief cities. Boetti would surely have appreciated some of the interpretive glosses, deliberate or accidental. The name "South Africa" floats, detached from land, in the Pacific. The United States, yellow and squashed under a big scarlet Canada, includes Los Angeles and Washington but not New York.

The original design is still more radically altered in another carpet, where oceans and continents alike are depicted as odd-shaped units strewn across Boetti's dark blue ground like discarded crusts of bread, while the borders are patrolled by spaceship-like tanks.

The transferring and transforming of images from one culture to another is not just an old story. It is the story of history. The West has a big stake in thinking of itself as controlling such exchanges. Picasso borrows from African art and he's a genius; African artists borrow from Western art and they're derivative. In fact, many transactions are happening without the West's help or knowledge, and developing in ways we can neither predict nor monitor.

The carpets from Afghanistan lie somewhere between the categories of commissioned and independent work. And as examples of conceptual art, folk art, tourist art, and visual chronicles and critiques, they offer images of 21st-century realities, including our own, absolutely worth pondering.
-HOLLAND COTTER"

link



Also, NY Times Listing: 'RUGS FROM AFGHANISTAN,'
Esso Gallery and Books, 531 West 26th Street, (212)560-9728, through March 5.
So-called traditional art is a constantly updated mirror of current events, and this is certainly true of weaving in Afghanistan. Working on commission in the 1970's, Afghan women embroidered designs by the Italian conceptual artist Alghiero Boetti (1940-1994) of world maps reflecting shifts in the balance of power among nation-states. While this project was in progress, Afghanistan itself was traumatized by a Soviet invasion that inspired the invention of a genre of "war carpets," incorporating images of guns, tanks and war-planes. The fascinating show at Esso includes both types, as well as imaginative hybrids of the two, in a cross-cultural merging of media, styles and ideas that is a model for the way history works. COTTER


Opened 2005-01-25 Closed 2005-03-05

War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 549,
Man on Elephant in Bottom corner,
190 x 294 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 751,
Map and Landscape with Lion/Deer,
96 x 150 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 755,
Chechen War Rug,
173 x 175 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 767,
Dragon Ali Kwaja,
198 x 290 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 921,
F16 Rug with Floral Design,
118 x 203 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 1092,
Ambush Sumac,
196 x 277 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 1393,
Double Prayer Rug,
119 x 203 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 1434,
Large Farah,
168 x 246 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 1435,
Large Afghan Map Rug,
196 x 279 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 1436,
Large Tupac,
196 x 279 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 1701,
Giant World Map Rug wit Signature,
272 x 312 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 2060,
Green Diamond Herati,
101 x 216 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 2061,
Green Grenade Guard Stripe,
114 x 206 cm
War Rug shown at Exhibition
ID#- 10010,
Shanama War Rug about April 1979 Uprising in Heart,
137 x 239 cm