Work and Trade, William Lamson’s new solo exhibition at Pierogi, features three projects in which the artist creates a mark-making system through collaboration with forces outside of his control.
In “Hunt and Gather,” the artist shoots down shoes from power lines around Brooklyn with a bow and arrow and trades them for the ones he is wearing. Since each pair of shoes that he cuts down is later thrown back up in a different location, the original gesture is extended to a new place, and the original mark is maintained in an altered form. As well as drawing attention to these existing urban interventions, this process of redistribution creates a series of nearly invisible marks in the landscape, a constellation of actions and reactions.
While traveling in South America, Lamson began “Automatic,” a video and drawing project in which he uses the natural forces of wind and the ocean to power three rudimentary drawing machines made from plastic bottles, string and scrap wood. In addition to each series of distinct drawings, a video documents the uncanny movement of the apparatus at work and its relationship to the landscape around it. “Automatic” also includes “Assisted Kite Drawing,” a video in which the artist tries to hold a pen still, resisting the periodic tug of a kite connected to his hand. Like a somnambulistic performer, Lamson sits motionless with his eyes closed, his hand moving suddenly from an unseen force.
In his newest work, an installation and week-long performance entitled “Work and Trade,” Lamson continues his interest in interventions by using the gallery itself as a site of production, exchange, and dialogue. From May 22-May 29, Lamson will work in the gallery making drawings with a device that consists of a ceiling fan, string and a marker. Visitors are invited to look through a flat file archive of this work and offer him something in exchange for a drawing of their choice. The traded item will become part of a collection of unique objects on display in the gallery, and anything that is not already in the collection may be offered as a trade. By allowing viewers the ability to trade something for a drawing, Lamson creates both an opportunity for dialogue and a system through which the audience determines the content of the work on display. Through these conversations and the display of traded objects Lamson challenges the viewer to question the criteria by which the value is determined.
In all of the works, Lamson intervenes with natural forces and cultural systems in ways that question the artist’s agency. Drawings are made, objects are exchanged, and things are collected, but in all of these events the artist works with forces outside his control, be they wind, gravity, or visitors to a gallery.
William Lamson is an artist living and working in Brooklyn. His work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art, and he has shown at P.S. 1, Franklin Art Works in Minneapolis, and Marty Walker Gallery in Dallas.