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Contact: Jill Katz
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Institute of Contemporary Art
University of Pennsylvania
118 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3289
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David Lamelas: Exhibiting MedialitySeptember 8 - December 12, 2004
Exhibition Walkthrough: Friday, September 10, 5-6pm, ICA Members Only, join on-site
Opening Reception: Friday, September 10, 6 - 8pm, free and open to the public
June 28, 2004
This exhibition draws attention to the late-1960s film and media installations of Argentinean artist David Lamelas (Buenos Aires, 1946) at a moment when they can speak with renewed urgency. "Exhibiting Mediality" reconstructs and recontextualizes a seminal work from this period to address the conditions under which images are produced and decoded; to consider what it means to exhibit not the image, but mediation. The concept of exhibiting pure mediality/mediation is further explored through collaborations with the University Archive and Records Center, and the Department of English and Film Studies, University of Pennsylvania, and International House, Philadelphia. This exhibition is organized by ICA's 2003-2004 Whitney-Lauder Curatorial Fellow Tanya Leighton.
David Lamelas is a pioneer of the radical repositioning of sculpture in the sixties and seventies that abandoned traditional definitions of sculpture, displacing its materials and modes of production. In doing so a redefinition of the status of art and its "sites of display" took place. Situated within an emerging aesthetic of institutional critique (that addressed conditions of spectator behavior as forms of social experience within the public institution of art), and opposed to the false neutrality of minimalist sculpture, Lamelas' sought to analyze art as a means of communication, relating it to how information was conveyed by the film and television industry, and to the discourses around public space and media technology. In light of current discussions on the relationship between cinema, art, the media, and politics, his work re-presented thirty years later has lost none of its relevance.
Lamelas's work proposes an extreme focus on self-awareness, an aesthetic of pure informationunfettered and laconic. The transformation of the space of the exhibition is one of the most overlooked and critical dimensions of his work, and the often alienating effects that Lamelas realizes through his use of media, challenge us to distance ourselves and to question the role of film, television and the media. In Límite de una Proyección aka Light Projection in a Dark Room, Lamelas divides the exhibition space into two distinct zones of light and dark by reducing the art object to a single beam of light: the projection of a spotlight in an otherwise completely dark space. The work is almost non-existent, Lamelas offers only its illusion: "a (dark) space occupied by another (illuminated) space." He poetically and succinctly creates a work that exists for itself, in "undisguised violence," only within its own consciousness and self-awareness. The object upon which light is shed is deliberately erased, paradoxically highlighting the act of "shedding light" itself. The political implication of which is that the work always has the possibility of change, existing as it does as nothing other than the product of the spectator; it exceeds the prefigured meanings imposed by the artist as producer and challenges the restrictions of the aesthetic structure itself.
In the context of this exhibition, Lamelas' simple gesture of "shedding light" is understood "in the light" of cinema. Tracing the origins and pre-history of cinema we find that the act of "spotlighting" (the "fonction éclairagiste du cinéma" as French critic Serge Daney wrote) is the very genesis of cinema. The spotlit, illuminated 19th Century vitrine is widely understood as an essential component of cinema's birth. From a diametrically opposed perspective we could say that cinema's birth coincides with a notion of "blocked vision," a blocking-out, that is, a context in which the observer sees one thing, and then another successively in darkness; his/her vision directed only to what is being spotlit and to nothing else.
Parallel to Lamelas's work, and as a means to elucidate the constitutive elements of cinema, "Exhibiting Mediality" draws attention to Eadweard Muybridge's "Animal Locomotion" plates, created in 1884 in Philadelphia, and preserved at the University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania. (If cinema is the act of spotlighting different elements, then spotlighting this archive within the city of Philadelphia is a cinematic act itself). Muybridge's photogravures offer another reflection on the essential elements of cinema and in a sense complete the sentence that Lamelas' spotlight opens. Cinema is one image after another, each image disappearing for the apparition of a third invisible image in the mind of the spectator. This invisible image is again what Lamelas's work is spotlighting.
"Exhibiting Mediality" is a collaboration with the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and International House, Philadelphia. For details of talks and film/video screenings please visit http://www.icaphila.org/or http://www.ihousephilly.org/programs-film-at-IHouse.htm
The curator, Tanya Leighton, is the ICA 2003-2004 Whitney-Lauder Curatorial Fellow. David Lamelas: Exhibiting Mediality is the culmination of a year-long fellowship offered by the Lauder Foundation, in collaboration with the Whitney Independent Study Program (ISP) in New York.
Image: David Lamelas, Límite de una proyección I (Limit of a Projection I), 1967 Installation View, Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires Courtesy of the artist and Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam
ICA is grateful for the support of The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Information complete as of 6/24/04.)ICA
Founded in 1963 as part of the University of Pennsylvania, ICA presents a year-round exhibition schedule that defines, analyzes, and explores the contemporary visual arts. A non-collecting museum, ICA offers one-person, thematic, and group exhibitions, including commissioned works. ICA diversifies its examination of art to include interdisciplinary work such as film, video, performance, architecture, and design. ICA plays a vital role in introducing American audiences to rising international artists and is also committed to the regional arts community. ICA has been at the forefront of contemporary art for 40 years, presenting the first museum solo exhibitions of artists Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Lisa Yuskavage, Charles LeDray and many others.
ICA is located at 118 South 36th Street at the University of Pennsylvania. ICA is open to the public, except during installation, from 12:00pm to 8:00pm on Wednesday through Friday and from 11:00am to 5:00pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $3 for adults; $2 for students over 12, artists, and senior citizens; and free to ICA members, children 12 and under, PENN card holders, and on Sundays from 11:00am to 1:00pm. For more information, call 215-898-7108/5911.