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Untitled (The Liar, The Copy of the Liar Serie)
1995
Oil on canvas, enamel on sheet metal and wood, photograph and pencil and oil on tracing paper
Dimensions: Painting: 23 x 29 cm Painting: 90 x 135 cm Painting: 75 x 110 cm Photograph: 13 x 18 cm 3 drawings: 25 x 35 cm each
Reference: ACF0898
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Francis Alÿs began the series The Liar, the Copy of the Liar by painting lone people doing strange things. These scenes depict ideas, nightmares and chance events portrayed in such a way that leads spectators to wonder what is going on. The person in this piece has a page from a newspaper wrapped around his legs; it looks like it has been blown there as he walked through the city. When the artist found a photograph of this incident, he wrote underneath: Sometimes making nothing leads to something. This is a maxim Alÿs has used before in various guises to set up paradoxes on the function of art. But in this series he focuses on processes for transmitting and interpreting art. After making several copies of the image, he produced a small oil painting and asked sign painters to make their own large-scale versions. As in the oral tradition, the original idea gradually morphed into something else brushstroke by brushstroke. Some of these versions were then reinterpreted by other sign painters, who kept the structure of the scene but interpreted the motif in their own way for their own purposes, such as a copyist whose pamphlet for a revolutionary party appears around the figure’s legs. Even the most insignificant detail can change the course of a story.

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