Beligan-born artist Alÿs’s work fills two huge gallery rooms with beautiful depictions, on tiny canvases, of life in Afghanistan. The images show a civilian way of life with the military impact never far from view.
Juxtaposed beside these desert images are strong graphic striped strokes, some included in the work, and some carefully displayed beside. The tiny scale of the canvases and the strength of the graphic stripes, somehow makes the paintings even more powerful.
The artist’s film Reel-Unreel takes its subject from the classic Afghani street game in which children keep a hoop in continuous motion with the help of a stick. In Alÿs version the hoop is replaced with a vibrantly colored film reel. Projected on an enormous screen, the screening room is filled with floor mats, encouraging the viewer to lay on the ground and be swept away with the film.
Known for having a distinct and poetic sensibility towards social and geopolitical issues, Alÿs’s previous works have involved pushing a melting block of ice through the streets of Mexico City, walking through Copenhagen under the influence of a different drug each day for a week and filming his own attempts to penetrate the eye of a tornado.
Alÿs’s work was the subject of a major show at the Tate Modern in London last year which garnered him the praise of the Telegraph newspaper saying ” Francis Alÿs show is Tate Modern’s finest show to date by a living artist”. There’s something incredibly modern, original and moving about the show that will stick with us for a long time to come.Francis Alys. Reel-Unreel. David Zwirner. 525 West 19th Street. NY. 10011. Tel: 212 727 2070. Closes February 9th, 2013