William Lamson: Automatic
Marty Walker Gallery
October 17 – November 14, 2009
You may never expect to stand before a gallery wall and critique works created by a small tree or ceiling fan, but at William Lamson’s exhibition Automatic at Marty Walker Gallery you will do just that. During his travels to South America, the Brooklyn based artist has harnessed the powers of his surroundings to create a series of delicate and unusual drawings.
Lamson’s brilliantly simple drawing machines are documented in several short video pieces that are also on view in the gallery. In one video a kite flies randomly in a windy sky. The power of the kite moves a marker taped to a water bottle, making marks on the paper below. What might seem facile when described in physical terms is in reality fascinating. You are watching the wind draw a picture. The result is an innovative work created with materials as plain as string, plastic water bottles, pencils and a natural force. The accessibility of these materials and simplicity of the machines bring a sense of wonder to the actual works. I have to admit that I wanted to run home and tie markers to anything that moved.
The drawings (especially the graphite works) are extremely light and invite closer viewing. Hundreds of marks—some wild, some uniform—form a cloud of repetition on the surface of the paper. The overall quietness of Lamson’s drawings seem to echo the quietness of nature.
The marks created by the tree drawing machine start to look like weathered bark. Though the machine is entirely synthetic, the drawing takes on a truly organic quality. These connections may be only in the mind of the viewer but are evidence of a desire to analyze the marks that we know to be random, or automatic. Though the drawings generate little to no interest on their own, ultimately their charm relies on the viewer seeing the actual machines in the video documentation.
The drawings alone mark a big departure from Lamson’s earlier photography and video work, but after seeing the machines in action there appears a definite common thread of curiosity and invention. The “automatic” nature of the work might bring up the perennial question “is it art?” for some, but overall its merits are clear and captivating. Whether you enjoy the drawings or not, you will leave Automatic with a wider view of what is possible with a little common material and uncommon ingenuity.
William Lamson: Automatic is on view at Marty Walker Gallery through November 14, 2009.