Francis Alys: A Story of Negotiation at Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City

A Story of Negotiation: Painting and Action in Francis Alÿs’s oeuvre is an investigation about the way the Belgian-born, Mexico-based artist articulates the production of pictorial images and film actions. The exhibition, curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina, focuses on three projects: Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River (2008), Tornado (2000-2010) and Reel-Unreel (2011). Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Elena Pardo, Julien Devaux, Rafael Ortega, Felix Blume, Emilio Rivera, Raul Ortega and Daniel Toxqui.

Francis Alÿs: A Story of Negotiation (Relato de una negociación: Una investigación sobre las actividades paralelas del performance y la pintura) at Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo. Video by Diego García Sotomoro.

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Press text:

Museo Tamayo is pleased to announce the exhibition A Story of Negotiation, by Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Emilio Rivera, Daniel Toxqui, Julien Devaux, Elena Pardo, Rafael Ortega, Felix Blume, Raúl Ortega and curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina. The exhibition stems from a dialogue between painting and action in Francis Alÿs’ recent works. It presents three projects made in the last decade, Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River (2008), Tornado (2000-2010) and Afghanistan (20111-2014).

In recent years, Francis Alÿs has developed a body of work where painting collapses his artistic practice and the mobilization of social agents. Simultaneously autonomous and accessories to the project that emits them, these paintings allow him to relate different forms of imagination to actions that operate as fables.
Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River is the conclusion of a series of works that started in 2005 with the project Bridge, where Alÿs devised a bridge made of boats, going from Havana to Key West, in order to unite symbolically the opposite shores of Cuba and the USA. This semi-clandestine action was followed in 2008 by Gibraltar, a mythological bridge made by children entering the sea, linking the shores of Morocco and Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, where one of the most significant migratory and smuggling flows of the world is concentrated. Fascinated by the whirlwinds that form after the maize harvest in Milpa Alta, in southern Mexico City, Alÿs set out to document these meteorological phenomena, wanting to register the eye of the storm. Tornado (2000-2010) transformed progressively into a meditation on the social crisis of Mexico, weighed down by the inequality and violence consequential of the failed neoliberal project. Once the so- called “war on drugs”, generated mountains of corpses numbering over a hundred thousand, chasing tornados became a private act of exorcism.
REEL-UNREEL is the result of series of visits that Francis Alÿs made to Afghanistan between 2011 and 2014 when the country was occupied by American and European powers trying to contain the Taliban insurrection. In a context in which the dogmatic interpretation of the prohibition of images among the Taliban led to the destruction of an undetermined number of artworks, images, historical objects and filmed material, the artist approached the local history by filming children playing with film reels, rolling them through the streets of Kabul. In parallel, the artist made a series of remarkable paintings that subvert the traditional division between abstraction and figuration.

If Alÿs’ projects are conceived as a story that triggers thought, his paintings are a log of the personal process sheltered behind the artist’s silence. Perhaps it would be appropriate to suggest that, for Francis Alÿs, paintings are the shadows of his acts.

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