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's epic video journey at The Boiler, A Line Describing the Sun
(through October 10), is similarly elemental and at first incomprehensible. By contrast, though, Lamson's trek over a parched lake bed in the Mojave Desert tugging an odd DIY contraption in shimmering sunlight has a much more ambiguous purpose. On re-watching, the act depicted in the 13-minute two-channel video (still above), projected on massive screens set at an obtuse angle, retains the quizzical, slightly absurd ritual air of Atlas eternally carrying his globe. Lamson walks onto the crunchy dry mesa pulling a trailer made of bicycle parts whose only features, aside from a water bottle-holder, are a mirror and a giant lens. He stops at an apparently arbitrary spot with infinite pure blue sky above and expansive, arid yellow dirt underfoot, sets the lens in line with the sun and the mirror at such an angle that the beam of focused light is pointed directly at the ground. The 1,600 degree light begins to burn the soil into a black, glassy substance, and Lamson sets off on his two-day journey, burning an arching 366-foot line into the sand.
The video, with impressive craning and tracking shots and an incredible textural soundtrack of crunching, sizzling, crackling and powerful winds, simultaneously emphasizes the grandeur of the land art performance, and its ultimate smallness against the imposing desert backdrop. Nearby, a small light box resembling the cracked lake bed, and a 23-foot version of the epic semi-circle delicately excavated from the earth in tiny, glittering fragments add to the quixotic journey's tactility. Lamson's singular journey, transcribing the arc of the sun in the sky onto the ground below, has a very appealing, quasi-mystical beauty to it. As with many of his previous pieces, like 2009's Automatic
series, in which pens rigged to kites, buoys, trees and more produced abstract sketches, A Line Describing the Sun
isn't so much a work in a landscape, but a collaboration with its natural setting, the medium and materials being provided and manipulated in equal measure by the site and the artist.
Though Lamson reaches the most profound exchange with his surroundings, all three artists strive for meaningful interactions with nature, whether it's Mallon's documentation of an odd environmental initiative or Ortner's intimate portraits of Melvillian seas. The ocean, not incidentally, is often likened to femininity in psychoanalytic theory, with all its attendant womb, cradle and fertility metaphors, but also primal anxieties over mysterious and threatening depths. It's worth pointing out, then, that all three artists here are men participating in that typically masculine cultural ritual of the solitary figure venturing out into nature to achieve pseudo-spiritual communion with the environment, á la Thoreau, Grizzly Man
, etc. Hardly some macho trip to conquer the wilderness, all three exhibitions convey an air of humble self-awareness. Each artist acknowledges the limits of human vision, framing his subject as just one small fragment of an elusive global whole.
(photo credit: the artists, Causey Contemporary, The Front Room and Pierogi)