Francis Alys | Renaissance Society | Galleries | Chicago Reader

Francis Alys All Ages Closing (Theater and Galleries) Free

When: Sept. 28-Dec. 14 2008

For his first Chicago exhibit, Francis Alys—a Belgian-born conceptual artist who lives in Mexico City—has created an installation called Bolero (Shoe Shine Blues), that gently evokes both the tedium and meditativeness of manual labor. A huge wooden room fills much of the Renaissance Society gallery; inside it hang 366 simple drawings that break the act of polishing a shoe down into individual motions. Stairs at one side of the room lead to a platform above, where a ten-minute animation shows the same act repeated over and over, to the sound of clarinet notes and a voice singing lines such as "nothing to see." The result is complex, almost poetic. The collective vastness of the drawings as they sprawl across the walls reflects on the near-endless exertions of street workers, while the video has an almost Buddhist emptying-out effect. "Outtakes" for the animation, the drawings also allude to the idea that art making can be as monotonous as other forms of labor. The same theme is explored in two other pieces in the show. —Fred Camper

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