In 2011, I took a group of Parsons students to PS1 to see the Ryan Trecartin show. Before leaving, I did a quick run through the rest of the galleries, poking my head into each space to see if anything would grab me after five hours of class and 30 minutes of viewing Trecartin’s immersive show. This is probably a bad art viewing habit, born out of the desire to see as much as possible despite having reached the limits of my concentration, but I continue to do it because of experiences like the one I am about to describe. It was in this state that I entered a darkened gallery where Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film “The Holy Mountain” was being screened. To those familiar with the film, choosing a frame from it to represent “an image that has affected you profoundly” may seem like an easy task, since virtually every scene in the movie involves some surreal event unfolding within an amazing set. However, the experience of walking into a gallery without any knowledge or expectations of what is inside, and then seeing a man ritually bathed in pool where a baby hippopotamus was playing in a spout of water, brought me out of my dazed state with such an intense feeling of surprise and incredulity that I had to focus to contain my giddy laughter. what. the. fuck.
It’s hard to explain exactly why I found this experience so delightful. Part of it is because Jodorowsky’s work differs profoundly from most of the contemporary art that I am used to seeing in institutions like PS1, in that he uses a visual language that is so overt, specific and generous that regardless of whether we understand the meaning of what it is we are seeing, he has created for us a singular experience.
William Lamson is a Brooklyn-based artist who works in video, photography, performance and sculpture. His work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and a number of private collections. His work can be seen at Pierogi in New York, Robischon Gallery in Denver, and Marty Walker Gallery in Dallas.