The New York Times, April 1, 2005


By Robera Smith

Mark Lewis, a Canadian living in London, is more aptly called a film artist than a fimmaker. Mr. Lewis, who is 47 and was included in "The American Effect" at the Whitney in 2003, is making his New York gallery debut with three wall-size film-to-DVD projections that undermine the omnipotent grandeur of Hollywood film conventions through radical editing and shortening. They function more like slow-moving paintings or like nature-based versions of the photographs of Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall.

Each projection is a single shot of a lanadscape that evokes the breath-taking opening or closing scene with which a feature film pulls you into a narrative or signals its resolution. Except there is no narrative, just a gib, beautiful empty gesture.

In "Algonquin Park, September" the only sign of life in a misty shot of lake and mountains is a tiny canoe with two figures making its way across the water and the screen. The scene lulls; landscapes by Caspar David Friedrich and George Caleb Bingham, not to mention Chinese art, come to mind. Just as the canoe seems about to pass gently from the screen, the shot ends so abruptly that the film seems to have broken.

The idea of the screen as a fixed rectangle with no life beyond its edges, like a painting, is also implied in "Off Leash," a panning overhead shot of people and dogs milling beneath a tree in a park. Despite all the activity, the main character is the tree, eternal nature, whose radiating branches fill the screen with an intricate linear network, like a drawing.

In "Algonquin Park, Early March" a slow reverse zoom gradually reveals that an apparently blank screen is really a hazy sky, then a snow-covered field and finally a frozen lake. The continual tricking and retricking of the eye makes this the most exciting of Mr. Lewis's projections. But in all of them Mr. Lewis isolates a detail from a nonexistent narrative, a clip that is similar to one of Cindy Sherman's fictional film stills. The fact that he requires a professional film crew to do so may be why his work seems to exploit film's seductive power as much as expose it.


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