Born 1947 in Bronxville, New York; lives in New York, New York
Louise Lawler’s mostly photographic work collapses a variety of art-world positions, including artist, curator, photo editor, dealer, graphic designer, critic, and publisher, raising open-ended questions about the place, value, meaning, and use of art. Poignantly expanding upon the legacy of institutional critique initiated by an earlier generation of Conceptual artists, including Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, and Michael Asher, Lawler puts a frame around the contexts that define art and the audience’s relationship to it. Aiming her self-reflexive lens primarily at art’s institutions—museums, galleries, auction houses, private collections, art fairs, art storage, and other poststudio contexts—her “pictures present information about the ‘reception’ of artworks,” the artist reports matterof- factly. But Lawler’s closely cropped photographs also frame specific ambiguities, too, including art’s relationship to the inchoate economies of desire, exchange, prestige, gender, and power.
Not the way you remembered (Venice) (2006) and Not the way you remembered (Flavin) (2007) each point to the placement and exhibition of artworks in changing display contexts. The similar titling of these works bears witness to Lawler’s ongoing interest in the spaces between—of the nuances of interstitial spaces, including gaps in memory. Along with other works including Hoof (2006), Lawler created Not the way you remembered (Venice) for the exhibition Sequence One: Painting and Sculpture from the François Pinault Collection (2006–07); rather than contributing discrete artworks, these photographs were taken of the exhibition’s early installation process in Venice (Hoof and Not the way you remembered [Venice] depict fragments of works by Damien Hirst and Rudolf Stingel, respectively). “Not the way you remembered” may refer to the megacollector and Christie’s auction house owner François Pinault’s displacement of the old aesthetic regime in the recent Venice installation—a difference relating to power that Lawler’s title seems to candidly acknowledge. Open-ended as ever, however, Lawler’s “you” also points toward the shifting audience, establishing yet another series of mnemonic intervals, of spaces between a work, context, and memory. As with Not the way you remembered (Flavin), a photograph of works by Dan Flavin that were installed elsewhere, the artist insists upon the viewer’s co-conspiratorial role in making sense of specific yet changing receptions of art.
Ultimately, Lawler’s self-reflexive photographs about the endless parades of artistic display point toward the regeneration of surplus meanings produced in the spaces between artworks and exhibition frames. Marking the apparatus of the art system, Lawler’s knowing work is at once critical and in on the game. TODD ALDEN
Louise Lawler, Untitled, 2006. Silver dye bleach print (Ilfochrome) mounted on aluminum in wooden frame, 19 3/8 x 23 1/8 in. (49.2 x 58.7 cm). Collection of the artist.