Review: William Lamson's videos of nature versus culture are thin

Review: William Lamson's videos of nature versus culture are thin
Still from William Lamson video, "Action for the Delaware," at Honor Fraser. (Honor Fraser Gallery)

William Lamson's disappointing show at Honor Fraser features two videos, one with a promising premise and the other self-indulgently vacant.

The better of the two, "Action for the Delaware," begins with a long, elevated shot of the artist appearing to stand on the river's surface. The scene is quiet but for occasional bird cries, and Lamson gazes serenely from the water's calm center, framed by distant, leafy banks. It's a walk-on-water moment of utter harmony that shatters abruptly when the scene shifts to a closer, lower view of how the miracle is faked.


Lamson has a bulky, makeshift float that he rides, then rights, then balances upon, occasionally falling backward with a noisy splash. For the duration of the 14-minute piece, action alternates between the artist's clumsy struggle for equilibrium and his achievement of peaceful, perfect unity with his surrounds.

The metaphor is timeless and universal, but the Brooklyn-based Lamson rests after sketching it out, and the work never progresses beyond an illustration of the basic, artist-as-earnest-but-false-God concept. Richard T. Walker's tender, mildly absurd video encounters with nature come to mind; their wry and wise humor make Lamson's work pale even more by comparison.

The other video, untitled and also dating from 2011, runs less than four minutes and merely tracks the windblown tumble of a Mylar emergency blanket across the parched Mojave Desert floor.

For a moment, the blanket becomes an undulating magic carpet, but the moment passes, the simple conceit is exhausted, and the video, like the sheet of Mylar, tumbles aimlessly on.

Honor Fraser, 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 837-0191, through Feb. 22. Closed Sunday and Monday.