From there, Lamelas kept moving—geographically and stylistically—developing what Broad MSU curator Carla Acevedo-Yates, who organized the exhibition, calls his “nomadic practice.” After becoming a Londoner, Lamelas relocated to Los Angeles in the 1970s, where he proceeded to reinvent himself anew. He spent a solid span of years focused on film, even trying to break into the more experimentally friendly Hollywood system of the day. The decade resulted in a number of faux-documentary films (in which Lamelas played the part of a crooked dictator being grilled by a news reporter) and The Desert People (1974), a funky piece in which a group of supposed ethnographers share their experiences with a Native American tribe.
Living in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, Lamelas found himself a little too comfortable with the lifestyle—“I became like a beach bum,” he said—and moved once again, in the late 1990s, to New York. And now, at the age of 71, the artist is one of those people constantly between places. “He’s very elusive, in the sense that you don’t know where he is at a certain time,” Acevedo-Yates said. “He’s always moving around.”
While it can be a Sisyphean task to boil Lamelas’s output down into a tidy whole, the Broad MSU exhibition—focused heavily on works made in the 1960s—showcases an artist always willing to take risks, to dabble and experiment with forms and concepts. “Lamelas thinks artworks have a life of their own, outside of the artist’s intent, their own consciousness, awareness,” Acevedo-Yates said. “The idea keeps evolving as time changes.” She described him as a pioneer, working with “architectural interventions, site-specific interventions, all these things—before they were named.”