David Lamelas

Sprüth Magers | Los Angeles
5900 Wilshire Boulevard
September 7, 2017–October 21, 2017

University Art Museum (UAM) at California State University
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
September 17–December 10

View of “David Lamelas: Time As Activity,” 2017. From left: Time as Activity Madrid, 2017; Time as Activity Düsseldorf, 1969.

The paragraphs-long labels that accompany the many works in David Lamelas’s retrospective at California State University, Long Beach, some on display for the first time in the US, point to an artistic career of heady investigations into visual hermeneutics. Spurred on by the works of media theorists (Marshall McLuhan), structuralist thinkers (Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss), and novelists (Marguerite Duras), Lamelas constructs pieces that unfold over time—requiring both patience and thought from a viewer. Slide projectors accompany a short film in Film Script (Manipulation of Meaning), 1972, ultimately complicating the narrative by providing a detour from the film’s seductive continuity. Works such as Los Angeles Friends (Larger Than Life), 1976—comprising forty pencil drawings and a slideshow—and the book Publication, 1970/97, showcase the artist’s dry humor and proves he is deeply embedded in international Conceptual art networks.

At Sprüth Magers, various excerpts are presented from Lamelas’s ongoing series “Time as Activity,” 1969–. Each piece is a study in film, sometimes with accompanying photographs, of the passage of time. For the initial work, Time as Activity Düsseldorf, 1969, the artist trained a 16-mm camera on three areas of the German city’s commercial and artistic life. He made the claim that “what occurs on the screen has no aesthetic meaning,” but, as the series progressed, aesthetics became inevitably drawn into the fray. This is also the case in Time as Activity Madrid, 2017, wherein Lamelas, working digitally this time, recorded visitors viewing Picasso’s Guernica, 1937, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Nearly a half century separates these meditations on daily pursuits in politically tumultuous times, and still, we find ourselves making our way—morning, noon, and night. As these two shows demonstrate, Lamelas continues to be not only an adroit deconstructionist of images but a great believer in them as well.

— Andy Campbell