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François Ghebaly
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Neïl Beloufa at François Ghebaly

Free

After a year of Zoom calls with colleagues and FaceTimes with family, Neïl Beloufa’s low relief wall sculptures at François Ghebaly feel a bit too familiar. For each of the uncanny lightboxes on view, the artist carves a low relief image into a wooden base and then skins a second image onto its surface with warmly colored leather. The juxtaposing layers of the images make each one difficult and unclear to read — just when you’ve made out an image of a man in a Zoom call, an underlying image of a pig staring out at the viewer emerges from below. 

Light peeks through selectively in place of eyes, orifices, and coffee cups, or sometimes more predictably to represent a glow of an iPhone. In one, a man is FaceTiming on his iPhone while the carved image below depicts a pair of Avatar-like creatures enacting a wholly different fictional narrative. Generally, the works convey the type of manic on-screen multitasking that has taken place during pandemic’s isolated experiences, conveying the disjunction of working and connecting on-screen. Meanwhile, the orange, brown, and purple color palettes the artist works with feel almost institutional or educational, complicating any clear decoding of these uncanny works.

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Photo: Neïl Beloufa, “Talking about the defense of the magic forest,” 2021. MDF, leather, synthetic leather, LED light, electric cord, plug, 37.5 x 90.5 x 3.5 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and François Ghebaly Gallery.

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