Francis Alÿs (Antwerp, Belgium, 1959) is know primarily for his actions. Some of these actions include: walks around Mexico City dragging a magnetic toy dog that picks up metallic objects as it goes along, a walk around São Paulo carrying a perforated can of paint to leave a trail, moving a dune a few metres along with the help of five hundred volunteers from the Lima Biennial, or sending a peacock to represent him at the Venice Biennial; actions that turn heads towards the work of this international artist.
In Spain his output could be seen previously at the ARCO exhibition and in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía as one of the artists selected by Ivo Mesquita and Adriano Pedrosa for the exhibition F[r]icciones from the cycle Versiones del Sur (Versions of the South). That said, this occasion represents the first individual exhibition of his pictorial work and is made up of a selection of pieces produced between 1992 and 2002.
The journey through Alÿs' pictorial universe comprises fifty paintings, one video and one hundred and fifty drawings arranged on different tables. The themes are circulated in series throughout the rooms and, what's more, the exhibition gains intimacy through the small formats of the works. Various characters run through the pieces, which form a greater cycle of works titled Déjà-vu - figures such as the fraud, the sinner, the thief, the seducer, the positivist and the mariner. The first picture entitled The Liar (1993) portrays a man dressed in a suit, his back turned to the viewer with his arms folded and joined by the sleeves.
Another of the figures to stand out from the same series, and present in this exhibition, is The Prophet. The figure is pursued by a swarm of flies, which is what gives the catalogue its name: The Prophet and the Flies, published by Turner for this occasion.
In Alÿs' paintings the viewer comes up against a scene in development that is both enigmatic and metaphorical; in the The Consequence of Ignorance (2001) two characters portray the performative and delve deeper to reflect on artistic creation, while in Le Cochon dans le Cochon he produces a visual narration that is akin to a children's story.
These are joined by other works, for instance the two studies and two final paintings entitled Two Sisters (1999-2000), or the most recent work to feature in the exhibition, Virtues (1992), created while the artist was studying in Venice and inspired by one of Giotto di Bondone's frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.
Centro Nazionale per le Arti Contemporanee, Rome (November 29, 2002 - February 8, 2003); Kunsthaus, Zurich (February 28 - May 11, 2003); Colección Lambert, Avignon, France