New York

Susan Lewis Williams

Susan Lewis Williams showed two works at A.I.R. under the general heading “Sculpture Recycled.” Within this general heading “Watermill (a summer experience recycled)” is comprised of about 100 glass quart jars stacked pyramid fashion against a wall; the wall is papered with reproductions of a photograph of the jars stacked similarly against another wall. In the photographs, nearly all the jars are filled with sand, but in the physical situation, about half the jars are partially filled with sand while nine jars contain a folded piece of paper. In a brief statement accompanying the piece, Williams tells of finding a jar with a note inside on a Long Island beach last June. The note was a name and address to which Williams wrote and got her letter back “addressee unknown.” In September she returned to the beach, filled 50 plastic bags with sand, and asked nine friends to write notes “sharing experience or feeling with someone unknown who might someday find the note in the bottle.” Bottles (presumably the ones in the show) will be “brought back” to the beach and “returned to the sea.” There seems to be some confusion here (possibly mine); somehow to find one object in the water and then throw 100 objects of the same kind back into the water seems an odd conception of “recycling,” even though Williams probably intends the recycling in terms of glass returning to the ocean and to a sand state. But there remain questions of why nine notes, why should the notes “share experience or feeling” (what it means to share experience or feeling seems an interesting question in itself), why 50 plastic bags, and why all those bottles? The most interesting aspect of this piece seems to be its ambiguity, but there is no evidence that ambiguity was intended. Disregarding these ambiguities, the “summer experience” is recycled by becoming an art work and by returning to the sea, and the two predicates can be seen in this case to be identical. Williams’ other work Post-Times seems to contain a multileveled pun; Post-Times is three enormous columnlike plastic sacks stuffed with rumpled newspaper. The pun prevents the work from leaning too far toward Arman in one direction and Barry Flanagan in another.

Bruce Boice