A leaking can of paint in hand, the artist strolls out of the gallery and drifts aimlessly through the city, leaving a trail of colour as he goes. So what kind of artwork is The Leak (1995). In one sense it’s a painting, but a painting too large for any museum. Its also a performance, though one without an audience. Perhaps most of all, it’s an invitation to take the artists line for a walk, to explore the same path through the city, to breathe the same air and take in the same sights and in so doing, to eliminate once and for all the division separating art from life.\n\nWith humour, sensitivity and an acutely personal connection to his subject matter, Francis Alÿs examines the patterns of various urban sites before weaving his own fables into their tangled social fabric. From that point onward, the fables take on a life of their own. A scene as such as a Volkswagen Beetle struggling up a hill in Tijuana (Rehearsal I, 1999-2001) or a man pushing a block of ice in Mexico City (Paradox of Praxis 1, 1997) can carry a message that resonates far beyond the works simple parameters. As the subtitle of his walking piece The Green Line (2004) puts it, Sometimes doing something poetic can become political, and sometimes doing something political can become poetic.\n\nOriginally from Belgium but based for the last twenty years in Mexico City, Francis Alÿs is a truly international artist. He has realized works in such diverse locations as Copenhagen, Lima and Jerusalem, and his work has also been exhibited at the worlds top museums including Tate Modern in London, Castello de Rivoli in Turin and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and featured in the most significant international biennials including São Paulo (1998, 2005), Istanbul (1999, 2001) and Venice (1999, 2001, 2007).\n\nIn the Interview, Russell Ferguson asks how the artists identity as a cultural outsider has helped determine the remarkable path of his art over the years. Cuauhtémoc Medinas Survey identifies the threads that run through the artists oeuvre while also sketching a political and social picture of Mexico City, the inspiration and setting for so many of his artworks. In the Focus, Jean Fisher examines the political heart of Alÿss massive collaborative Land art project When Faith Moves Mountains (2002). In the Artists Choice, Augusto Monterrosos short tales capture the artists enduring fascination with the role animals and fables play in human society, while Alÿss own writings uncover the poetry in everyday phrases and seemingly spontaneous arrangements of urban life.
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