A potted maple tree, encircled by 20 white marble slabs forming a dashed line on the floor, occupied the center of Lia Rumma gallery’s ground floor. The circle seemed to demarcate a sacred area: the red-leaved tree took the place of a religious icon, while the flat marble rectangles defined the perimeter of an imaginary colonnade. The thinness of the slabs gave the marble a pictorial quality; rather than sculpture, they looked like immaculate floor paintings with pearl gray veins. The piece is titled Signaling (2014), the first of three installations in this recent solo exhibition by David Lamelas (b. Buenos Aires, 1946). The work was a new version—specifically conceived for this gallery—of the artist’s Signaling of Three Objects (1968), in which he marked out the area around a tree, a lamppost and a chair in London’s Hyde Park by positioning white panels on the grass. At that time, Lamelas, a pioneer of Conceptual art in Argentina and Europe during the ’60s, transformed the sculptor’s task from making an object to signaling an object. The world was to him a container of infinite readymades.
On the second floor, the artist reimagined the installation Two Modified Spaces, presented in 1967 at the São Paulo Biennial. Here, it consisted of two elements: an open, aluminum rectilinear structure (approximately 3½ by 23 by 27 feet), evoking a Minimalist sculpture, that was placed near a wall of windows overlooking a terrace; and a trapezoidal, aluminum projection of the form on the ground of the terrace. The work reflects and reinterprets the semantics of the gallery’s architecture, exploring the dialectic between inside and outside—an issue particularly dear to the young Lamelas.
The gallery’s third floor hosted Time as Activity (Milan and Naples), 2013-14, part of an ongoing series that he began in Düsseldorf in 1969. Two videos were projected on opposite walls, accompanied by 13 photographic stills from the videos. The projections feature views of Milan and Naples, respectively, shot with a stationary camera in different moments during the same day. There is neither action nor narrative; the subject is the slow flux of time. The different scenes, showing the Duomo di Milano or the Teatro di San Carlo’s interior in Naples, for instance, last about four minutes and are separated by intertitles indicating the duration of each shot. The pictures on the walls emphasized the sense of stillness. Since movement was almost absent here, the boundaries between film and photography became confused.
The artist’s deconstructive approach connected the three installations. While Signaling calls into question the authority of the gallery by placing a tree in the middle of the room—rather than a proper sculpture—Two Modified Spaces plays with the space’s architecture, creating an empty new container that trespasses on the area outside the gallery. With Time as Activity, Lamelas dismembers the notion of progress, presenting time as a collection of fragments.