Francis Alÿs, Ciudad Juárez projects
David Zwirner Gallery
24 Grafton St, London W1S 4EZ
June 11 – August 5
David Zwirner will exhibit Francis Alÿs third solo show at the gallery and first gallery exhibition in London in nearly fifteen years. The exhibition, Ciudad Juárez projects, will be a collection of works made by the artist in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico from 2010 to 2015. In recent years Francis Alÿs’s work has consistently brought attention to border regions engulfed in sociopolitical conflicts; such as the Strait of Gibraltar, Jerusalem, Turkish-Armenian border, the Panama Canal Zone.
The Ciudad Juárez project focuses on the previously prosperous border city, situated opposite El Paso, Texas on the US-Mexico border that has been devastated by drug-related narco-violence, prostitution, extortion, and turf wars between rival cartels. The city has become a moribund landscape of abandoned buildings marked by social and economic crisis. Alÿs art is used as “a sort of discursive argument composed of episodes, metaphors, or parables,” that is intertwined with the local political, social and economic environment.
The works in the exhibition present a visual of daily life in the affected areas; but instead of posing solutions, Francis Alÿs brings the problems to light with open-ended questions related to the crisis to bring recognition to the problems deeply-rooted within the city. One of the major installations demonstrates this with the expression of an aphorism as its title. Paradox of Praxis 5: Sometimes we dream as we live & sometimes we live as we dream, Ciudad Juárez, México (2013), made in collaboration with Julien Devaux, Rafael Ortega, Alejandro Morales, and Félix Blume, uses the title as a driving factor and influence in the work to create something beautiful in the presence of terror.
Here, Alÿs kicks a flaming soccer ball through Ciudad Juárez at night, illuminating a path through the darkness. The darkness of the night creates a cover for the city’s troubles to come out of the shadows and cause havoc. Along the path we briefly see problems like the sale of drugs, prostitution, and police indifference. Darkness becomes a rhetorical device throughout the Ciudad Juárez projects, such as in Ciudad Juárez Postcards (2013), where Alÿs blacked out all visual information found on tourist postcards of the city, leaving only artificial light sources visible.