Art in Review
Friday, April 20, 2001
Smack Mellon Studios
56 Water Street
Through May 13
Smack Mellon combines Chelsea-style immensity with alternative-space rawness, and these features are put to ideal use in Simon Lee's cinematic installation. A screen stretching across the entire width of the darkened gallery is filled with luminous images of half-abstract quivering forms. Some look familiar — animals, trees; houses, figures--but the general effect is of life seen underwater or magnified through a microscope.
The source of the images can be found on an upstairs balcony. They are all "live" projections of tiny plastic toys--including fighter planes, furniture and dinosaurs-- that are floating around in a long tank of gently eddying water. Also under water and projected onto the screen as background to the moving forms are photographic transparencies of buildings and landscapes.
The layered results, at once animated and still, suggest both kaleidoscopic fantasies and narratives of domestic catastrophe. Through an ingeniously simple means, Mr. Lee, who once sent the contents of an abandoned home floating down the East River, has created a powerful metaphor for the random flow of history and a low-tech formal tour de force.
A separate solo show of photographs and videos by Claire Lesteven shares similar characteristics. Using a multi-aperture cyclindrical version of a pinpoint camera--an elaborated form of the most basic photographic technology--she has produced eerily distorted pictures of public spaces: a French soccer stadium and a warehouse-lined Brooklyn street seem to be filtered through the anxious haze of bad-dream sleep. In a video made with the same camera lucida technique, figures simultaneously walk into and emerge from a black hole of a centraL vanishing point. As in Mr. Lee's work, the means are straightforward, the results intensely evocative.