LOS ANGELES, CA.- Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal, the first large-scale museum exhibition in the United States devoted to the career of Mexico Citybased artist Francis Alÿs will be on view at the Hammer Museum September 30, 2007 through February 10, 2008. Alÿs is widely considered to be among the most important artists working today. He works in a wide range of media, including painting, drawing, performance, film, video installation, animation, and photography. No matter the medium he chooses to employ, all his work has a simplicity that makes it instantly accessible and a complexity that continues to resonate long after the work has first been seen. Alÿs is a teller of visual stories, potent myths that can be told and re-told. From the beginning of his career as an artist, Alÿs has adopted a way of working that tends to reject conclusions in favor of repetition and recalibration. He has, that is, put the idea of rehearsal at the heart of his practice.
About the Exhibition: To date, exhibitions of Alÿss work have emphasized issues of place, particularly connections to Mexico City, his adopted home. In contrast, this thematic retrospective will focus on concepts of rehearsal and repetition, failure and success, storytelling and performance, exploring how these ideas inform Alÿss varied practice. Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal is organized by Russell Ferguson, Chair, Department of Art, University of California, Los Angeles, and Adjunct Curator, Hammer Museum, and the exhibitions conceptual framework of rehearsal and related themes arose from conversations between Ferguson and Alÿs over several years. Alÿs has described the work as a sort of discursive argument composed of episodes, metaphors or parables, staging the experience of time in Latin America.
In the late nineties Alÿs began specifically to examine the mechanisms of rehearsal as such. His film Ensayo I (Rehearsal I, 1999) shows a red Volkswagen attempting to reach the top of a steep hill in Tijuana. At the same time we hear a soundtrack that consists of a danzon band attempting to learn a new song. The two elements are in fact synchronized. Each time the band break down and abandon the attempt to play through the song, the cars driver (Alÿs) also gives up, and the car rolls backwards down the hill again. As Alÿs has described this work: The stubborn repetition effect hints at a story which is constantly delayed, and where the attempt to formulate the story takes the lead over the story itself. It is a story of struggle rather than one of achievement, an allegory in process rather than a quest for synthesis.
Similarly pairing music and incomplete activity, Ensayo II features a woman rehearsing an old-fashioned strip-tease against a bare stage curtain. The exhibition will also feature other works that engage with the idea of rehearsal, among them some of Alÿss most acclaimed pieces. One such work, Song for Lupita (1998), is an animated film loop of a woman pouring water back and forth between two glasses. The animation is accompanied by the endless repetition of a specially recorded musical soundtrack. R.e.h.e.a.r.s.a.l. (2000) shows an animator working on the word rehearsal itself. It is a pyramid structure that slowly advances letter by letter to the whole word, then steps down again. Another piece, When Faith Moves Mountains (2002), is a video projection documenting a performance in which several thousand volunteers equipped with shovels moved a giant sand-dune on the outskirts of Lima. The dune moved only a few inches, but it did move, thanks to the coordinated efforts of a huge number of people.
All of the work in the exhibition will be accompanied by the beautiful and fragile preparatory drawings for which Alÿs is renowned, as well as by paintings, documents, and further video work.
Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal has been generously supported by Fundación/Colección Jumex and Heidi and Erik Murkoff. Additional support has been provided by the Peter Norton Family Foundation and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund.
Public Programs and Catalogue: A full series of public programs are currently being planned to accompany the Hammers presentation. In addition to a conversation between Ferguson and Alÿs, events may include a lecture on Alÿss work by a specialist in contemporary art and culture, a panel discussion on modernity in Latin America, and screenings, exhibition tours, and gallery talks.
Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal will be accompanied by a full-color, hardcover catalogue written by the exhibitions curator, Russell Ferguson. Approximately 150 pages in length, it will provide an in-depth exploration of Alÿss oeuvre, and investigate the artistic and intellectual contexts for his contributions to contemporary artistic discourse. The catalogue will feature full photographic and textual documentation of works in the exhibition, as well as comparative imagery from other works in Alÿss oeuvre, and will be designed by the award-winning graphic designer Lorraine Wild of Green Dragon Office.
About Francis Alÿs: Francis Alÿs was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1959, and trained as an architect, studying both in his native country and in Venice, Italy. In 1986, he moved to Mexico City, and within a few years he had left the field of architecture for a broader-based visual arts practice. Along with Gabriel Orozco and Damien Ortega, Alÿs is one of the key members of a generation of Mexico Citybased artists who emerged in the 1990s and have won world-wide acclaim.
Alÿs was first known primarily for paintings, made in collaboration with local sign painters from his neighborhood that questioned ideas of authenticity and replication. Since then he has become a highly regarded video artist, photographer, and orchestrator of performative events. He also continues to paint and draw extensively.
Alÿss work has been the subject of numerous one-man exhibitions in Europe and Latin America, but in the United States his work has been shown only in group exhibitions and in a handful of projects, most notably The Modern Procession (2002) at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. In Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal, the Hammer will for the first time bring works from across Alÿss career and in a range of mediums to a broad audience.