David Lamelas (b. 1946, Argentina) is a key figure in the history of conceptual art and experimental film. Comprising film, video, performance, photography, sculpture, installation, and drawing, his complex practice excavates the viewer’s perception and critically assesses the mechanisms of cultural production. Central to Lamelas’s oeuvre is the notion of time and what people make of it. His work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions, including David Lamelas, Extranjero, Foreigner, Étranger, Ausländer at the Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, and the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (2006), and Time as Activity: David Lamelas at the Hunter College Art Galleries, New York (2021).
Curated by Harper Montgomery, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art with Sarah Watson, Chief Curator, and Re’al Christian, Lazarus Graduate Curatorial Fellow, and with MA and MFA students enrolled in the curatorial practicum seminar: The Transgressive Itineraries of Conceptualism. The exhibition has been developed in close collaboration with David Lamelas, who worked with students via Zoom on both projects during the course of the pandemic, from spring of 2020 through the fall of 2021.
Life as Activity: David Lamelas marks the artist’s first solo show in New York in more than a decade. For over half a century, Lamelas (born 1946, Buenos Aires) has made work that pushes the boundaries of contemporary art by defying conventions of artistic media. Although he is globally recognized as a ground-breaking figure of conceptual art, his explorations with the spatial qualities of film and the signifiers of identity have not been adequately investigated. Life as Activity focuses on Lamelas’s experimentation with film and his examination of identity and narrative fiction in light of his ongoing insistence that his artistic practice has always, in one way or another, been grounded in his sense of himself as a sculptor.
The exhibition brings together sculpture, film, and photography made across many decades and locations to center this aspect of Lamelas’s artistic practice. These works include two key sculptural installations he made in Buenos Aires in 1966 and 1967, Situación de cuatro placas de aluminio (Four Changeable Plaques), a moveable configuration of aluminum sheets, and Limit of a Projection, a spotlight in a dark room; a series of ten photographs shot in London that pose as film stills for a non-existent movie, The Violent Tapes of 1975; and two films, The Desert People, a pseudo-documentary about a road trip to a Native American reservation which was shot in Los Angeles in 1974 and The Invention of Dr. Morel, a film based on the Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares’s novel The Invention of Morel (1940), which was filmed in Potsdam, Germany in 2000. Both films will be screened on an ongoing basis at set times, which will be available on the Leubsdorf Gallery website. Showcasing the ways in which Lamelas makes us aware of how the stories we tell ourselves are shaped by encounters with space and time, all of these works invite us to participate in scenarios in which container, contained, observer, and observed become blurred.
The exhibition Life as Activity: David Lamelas is part of the ISLAA Artist Seminar Initiative at Hunter College. Additional support for Life as Activity: David Lamelas is made possible by Joan Lazarus, Gagosian Gallery and the James Howell Foundation in support of the Advanced Certificate in Curatorial Studies, and by the galleries’ sustaining supporters the David Bershad Family Foundation, the Susan V. Bershad Charitable Fund, Inc., Carol and Arthur Goldberg, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, and the Leubsdorf Fund.