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September 15 - October 13, 2001 at Flowers West, Santa Monica

by Judith Christensen

“Reissue,” mixed media,
6 x 2 x 2”, 2001.

"Church," mixed media, 2001.

"Sky at Night," mixed media, 2001.

Time and space, motion and matter, man and the universe. Big topics which Tim Lewis--a London-based sculptor--tackles in sculptures that are often small enough to hold in your hand. In Reissue, a mere six by two by two inches, a metal figure of a man stands inside a glass test tube. The implications range from the biological to the psychological. Is he alluding to ethical questions raised by contemporary genetics, where we find ourselves moving from test tube babies, i.e. fertilization, towards test tube beings, i.e. cloning? Or, is the glass tube a metaphor for our relationship to our surroundings? From the perspective of the figure inside, the glass, which while not clearly visible is as restricting as any solid barrier, suggests that our connection with what's outside this boundary is illusory. We remain alone and isolated. We can think of this as Lewis' commentary on the existentialist theme of alienation, or we can we impose a narrower, more contemporary reading: As technological advances in communication appear to make us more connected, are we, in fact, becoming more isolated? Reissue may be tiny, but its implications are not.

There is a dichotomy in Lewis' work. On one hand, he seems fascinated with all things mechanical, merely for the sake of seeing, suggesting or imagining motion. His metal bugs and mechanical butterflies are clearly in that category. His stroboscopic sculptures lean heavily in that direction. On the other hand, Lewis' world is populated with intentional beings--beings who name the galaxies, write on the wall, walk along the time-and-space continuum, and gather to entertain themselves or perform horrific deeds. And it is this latter group--focusing on human interaction with society and the universe they inhabit--that assumes the greatest weight.

Struck by the Lux and Church, while similar in structure, couldn't be further apart in connotation. Both suggest gatherings of people--tiny metal figures with no appendages, just a rounded head atop an elongated, linear body. In both, the crowd came to watch. In Struck by Lux it is a movie screen that attracts their attention. In Church it is a hanging they came to see. Overhead, above the gallows, is a wooden sphere with crosses stuck in it like pins in a pincushion. It could be the universe, hanging there. This reference makes appearances in other works.

In Sky at Night, for example, crosses stuck into the surface denote the constellations, as evidenced by their names scratched into the piece next to the crosses. But there are no names of stars etched into the surface in Church. While we do make the visual connection with other sculptures, at the same time we can't help but note the crosses as demarcations of other hangings, other deaths. And this provides a conceptual interplay between the one and the many. One is being hanged, but above are the shadows of the many. One is on the gallows, presumably to do the hanging, but below are the many, who came to watch and, thereby, participate.

It is this complexity, the more-you-look-the-more-you-see-the-more-you-think quality of his work that draws you in and keeps you involved.