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Re-Presenting Louise Lawler

University of Florida Institutional Repository

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RE-PRESENTING LOUISE LAWLER: THE EARLY WORK, 1978-1985 By MARIOLA V. ALVAREZ A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2005

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Copyright 2005 by Mariola V. Alvarez

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To my parents.

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iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to acknowledge Alexander Alberro for his continuing guidance through the years, his encouragement during my writing process, and his intelligence, both tireless and nuanced, which serves as an exemplary model of scholarship. I would also like to thank both Eric Segal and Susa n Hegeman for their perspicacious suggestions on my thesis and for their formative seminars. I am grateful to the rest of the faculty, especially Melissa Hyde, staff and graduate st udents at the School of Art and Art History whom I had the pleasure of working with and knowing. My friends deserve endless gratitude for al ways pushing me to be better than I am and for voluntarily accepting th e position of editor. They influence me in every way. Finally, I thank my family for ma king all of this possible.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv LIST OF FIGURES...........................................................................................................vi ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................vi ii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 2 CRITIQUE OF THE INSTITUTION...........................................................................4 A Network of Positions................................................................................................4 Art about Art...........................................................................................................12 Art as a Souvenir of Culture.......................................................................................17 3 SELECTION, PRESEN TATION AND DISPLAY...................................................28 An Open Economy of Signs....................................................................................28 On Display: The Spectacle of Art...............................................................................33 Metaorders..................................................................................................................36 A Picture Is No Subs titute for Anything.....................................................................39 4 THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN EMBODIED SUBJECT........................................49 Sexuality in the Field of Vision..................................................................................49 The Institutional and the Everyday.............................................................................52 Privilege of the Senses................................................................................................58 The Desiring Subject..................................................................................................62 What Is the Institution?...............................................................................................65 5 CONCLUSION...........................................................................................................69 LIST OF REFERENCES...................................................................................................86 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................90

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vi LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 Louise Lawler, An Arrangement of Pictures, Metro Pictures Gallery, New York, 1982.......................................................................................................71 2 Louise Lawler, Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber, Inc. 1982, cibachrome................................................................72 3 Louise Lawler, Arranged by Mera and Donald Rubell 1982, cibachrome.............73 4 Louise Lawler, Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. And Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Connecticut 1984, cibachrome...............................................................74 5 Louise Lawler, Arranged by Claire Vincent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City 1982, cibachrome.....................................................................75 6 Louise Lawler, (Allan McCollum and Other Artists) Lemon 1981, cibachrome....76 7 Louise Lawler, (Holzer, Nadin and Other Artists) Baby Blue 1981, cibachrome..76 8 Louise Lawler, (Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black 1982, cibachrome......77 9 Louise Lawler, (Jenny Holzer and Other Artists) Kelly Green 1982, cibachrome.77 10 Louise Lawler, (Andy Warhol and Other Artists) Tulip 1982, cibachrome............78 11 Louise Lawler and Allan McCollum F or Presentation and Display: Ideal Settings, Diane Brown Gallery, New York City, 1984..........................................79 12 Louise Lawler, Group Exhibition, Ar tists Space, New York City, 1978.................80 13 Louise Lawler, Objects Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What Are We Going to Say?, Metro Pi ctures Gallery, New York City, 1985.......81 14 Louise Lawler, Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What Are We Going to Say?, Metro Pict ures Gallery, New York City, 1985................82 15 Louise Lawler, Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What Are We Going to Say?, Metro Pict ures Gallery, New York City, 1985................83

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vii 16 Louise Lawler, Statue Before Painting, Perseus with the Head of Medusa, Canova 1982, cibachrome.......................................................................................84 17 Louise Lawler, Sappho and Patriarch 1984, cibachrome.......................................85

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viii Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts RE-PRESENTING LOUISE LAW LER: THE EARLY WORK, 1978-1985 By Mariola V. Alvarez May 2005 Chair: Alexander Alberro Major Department: Art and Art History This thesis examines the early work (19781985) of American arti st Louise Lawler. In the late seventies artists in the United States produced art that responded to the breakdown of the modernist paradigm, often di rectly countering or continuing the project begun by the Minimalist artists. Lawle rs practice, in many ways, prolongs and expands many of the issues foregrounded by the Minimalist movement: the role of the artist, the interdependence of the exhi bition site and the art object, and the phenomenological relationship of the subject and object. Artists prac ticing institutional critique, including Lawler, ch allenged the traditional model of art, yet, whereas the Minimalists focused on the physical structure of the exhibition site, institutional critique artists contested the ideological frame. Institutional critique took as its object the blurring of high art and everyday life or mass culture, in a sense resuming the call of the historical avant-garde. Lawler distinguishes herself from other pos t-conceptual artists with a praxis that accentuates the spaces complementary to the museum/gallery sitethe collectors home,

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ix the corporate office, the auction house, the art journal, the studiothus fashioning a boundless, open model of value and meaning for art. The artworld is presented as an active network of positions, sites, and frames. This fluid configuration echoes within Lawlers own practice, which cannot be limite d to one medium. Rather the artworks and installation merge to create meaning in concer t. As a result, the imbrication of content and formal structure continuall y calls attention to the power of presentation and display, and thus contests the autonomous object of modernist art. Lawler sharpens her focus on the presen tation and display of objects by inscribing or interpellating the viewer within the work. Often, she accomplishes this action through the use of text that includes questions and sh ifters directly addressi ng the viewer and thus confronting her/him with a di fferent frame of interpretation. The viewer is made conscious of her/his own subject-nesse ffected by and constituted through art.

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1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Louise Lawler takes photographs of art objectsobjects in museums, collectors homes, and places of business. The photographs give prominence to the objects and their placement within a hierarchy of presenta tion and display. The pictures of the museum/gallery complex index the museologi cal support of an ar t object while the pictures of artworks in private spaces trac e the spaces and the mobility of power relations in the art world, tracking the object beyond the museum site. Signification is thus shown to be entirely dependent on context, to be fully contingent and arbitrary. It shifts even slips and slidesin concert with the surr ounding constellation of cultural signifiers. Lawlers photographs address this problematic directly, and nowhere more so than in the artists 1982 exhibition, An Arra ngement of Pictures, at Me tro Pictures Gallery in New York City. My paper will focus on this pa rticular exhibition as a framing device to explore the work of an artist who problematizes all frames. Such a framing device, of course, will itself be theorized as arbitrarywhat St uart Hall has defined as an arbitrary closureunderpinned by the hypothesis that kno wledge is not possible without such an arbitrary closure.1 This early exhibition presents, in crystallized form, many currents and 1 Stuart Hall, Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies, Cultural Studies ed., Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Paula A. Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), 278. I dont believe knowledge is closed, but I do believe that politics is impossible without what I have called the arbitr ary closure; without what Homi Bhabha called social agency as an arbitrary closure. That is to say, I dont understand a practice which aims to make a difference in the world, which doesnt have some points of difference or distinction which it has to stake out, which really matter. It is a question of positionalities. Now, it is true that those positionalities are never final, theyre never absolute. Th ey cant be translated intact from one conjuncture to another; they cannot be depended on to remain in the same place.

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2 themes that continue to preo ccupy Lawler today, most signifi cantly the power of display and the construction of an embodied viewing subject. Lawlers photographs comment on the inst itution of arta self-reflexivity at once thoroughly contingent yet grounded in the historical moment of what Hal Foster terms the neo-avant-garde.2 As a result, the images exis t in relationship to the changing scene of art in the post-sixties period post-Modernist Painting, post-Pop, postMinimalism, post-Conceptualismbut also grap ple with the historic al lessons learned from these previous art movements, and deal a death knell to any na rrative of an avantgarde. Chapter 2 of the thesis addresses th ese issues and questions the value of imposing the avant-garde model on the work of Lawl er, or any artist producing art in the postmodernist period. Taking a cue from earlier artists practici ng institutional critique Lawler shifts away from a conception of art as centralized in the museum to a discursive model in which art circulates beyond the walls of the museum/gallery complex. As a result, this borderless circulation affects, conditionally, the meaning and va lue accrued or lost by the object. Lawler presents art as an expanded field that in many ways corresponds to the service industry of capitalism. Her many shifting roles (curator, dealer, designer, publicist) and sinuous output (photographs posters, invitations, matchbooks) accentuate the marketing and selling of art, rather th an its supposedly transcendental quality. Chapter 3 concentrates on the aesthetic select ion necessary to the pr esentation of art and the display of objects. In her works, Lawl er plays with the co ntingency of meaning affected by the position of the artworkwithin its context, in juxtaposition with other 2 Hal Foster, The Return of the Real (Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, 1996).

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3 non-art objects, and in relationship with othe r artworks. The values assigned to these works through their presentation, return the vi ewers attention to the economic interests of the artworld. The representation of the paradigmatic sh ift from production to consumption also locates Lawlers work within questions aris ing out of feminism: the values associated with the construction of woman as consumer against man as producer, and the intimate weaving of the public, personal, and political. Lawler turns her le ns on the construction of the subject through representa tion and the pleasure afforded this viewer in the act of looking. This investigation of vision does not create a non-vis ual art practice, but rather demonstrates the ways that societys visual presentations allude to a certain power, as evidenced in Lawlers attempt to unearth the hidden, naturalized, and tacit patriarchal foundations of art history. La wlers work has often been examined solely within the framework of institutional critique to the de triment of recognizing the space she opens up for questions of visuality, desire and subjectiv ity. Chapter 4 of the thesis attempts to foreground this still unexplored, and very signific ant, aspect of Lawle rs artistic practice.

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4 CHAPTER 2 CRITIQUE OF THE INSTITUTION The historian employs words, narrative, analysis. The photographers solution is in the viewfinder: where to place the edge of the picture, w hat to exclude, from what point of view to show the relations among the includ ed details. Both seek a balance between reproduction and constr uction, between passive surrender to the facts and active reshaping of them into a coherent picture or story. Ordering facts into meaning, data into history, mo reover, is not an idle exercise but a political act, a matter of judgment and choice about the emerging shape of the present and future. It may be less obvi ous in the making of a photograph than in the writing of a history, but it is equa lly true: the viewfinder is a political instrument, a tool for making a past suitable for the future. Alan Trachtenberg1 A Network of Positions An Arrangement of Pictures consiste d of three parts corresponding to the physical space of the gallery. Upon enteri ng the exhibition, the viewer encountered works made not by Lawler, but by the othe r artists represented by Metro Pictures, including Jack Goldstein, Robert Lon go, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, and James Welling. In the central area of the gallery, Lawler inst alled her own photographs of artworks found in an array of places, includi ng the collectors privat e home, the corporate office, and the museum. The final group f eatured Lawlers photographs of her own arrangements of other artists artworks. The first part of the exhib ition was characteristic of Lawlers work in the marked absence of an authorial figure (Figure 1). Expecting to see a one-woman show, the viewer instead found recognizable works by ot her Metro Pictures artists and Lawlers 1 Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History Matthew Brady to Walker Evans (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989), xiv.

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5 imprint located only on the wall label that r ead Arranged by Louise Lawler. The wall label called into question the pos ition of artist. As Andrea Fr aser points out about this exhibition in one of the more trenchant text s on Lawler: viewers we re confronted with an ambiguity of occupation, a shift in positio n which illuminated the role of the often unnamed arrangers in the exhibi tion and exchange of art.2 With one motion, Lawler both placed the role of the artist in crisis and foregr ounded the secondary roles of curators and dealers. As such, she hailed art production as a network of positions and practitionersas a largescale productionrather than as the wo rk of a single artist-creator. This point of view would have been uni maginable without the precedent of the many artistic practices of the 1960s that relied on external aid in the pr oduction of artwhether that was the aid of a factory of assistants or of metalworke rs in a factorythrowing into question the traditional role of the artist as guarantor of authenticity. The production of mechanical screen prints (Warhol) or serial metal boxes (Judd) distanced, more than ever before in the modern era, th e artists subjectivity from his practice. Lawler, too, evacuates authorial/authoritative claims from her wor k, articulating in turn what Hal Foster has described as the division of labor that pr oduces the hierarchical functions and generic forms of art.3 As An Arrangement of Pictures make s clear, she remains absent even in the exposition of the work. By vacating the pos ition of artist, La wler dialectically highlights that notions primary signifi cance to the institution of art. 2 Andrea Fraser, In and Out of Place, Art in America (June 1985), 125. I am highly indebted to Frasers intelligent essay for elucidating many powerful argume nts of Lawlers work, which have influenced my readings. 3 Hal Foster, Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (New York: The New Press, 1999), 106.

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6 For her exhibition Home/Museum Arrange d for Living and Viewing, held at the Wadsworth Atheneums Matrix Gallery in 1984, Lawler played a seven-minute audiotape, Birdcalls This humorous audiotape features a litany of names of male artists recited by Lawler. Fraser interprets Birdcalls as an exploration of the way the proper name tends to unify the subject it designate s: Signifying the essential yet imaginary identity of a unified ego, the proper name es tablishes the subject as such, in language, under the law.4 Additionally, the proper name of the artist serves as his signature, uniting his works while erasing difference. Th is enables the viewer/collector to consume sameness through authenticity. According to the artist, the origin of the Birdcalls project began in the early 1970s when she was one of several women installing artworks for one of the Hudson River pier projects. All of the artists featured in th ese shows were male. While walking home in the evenings from work on this project, she and another female friend would speak gibberish to each other in loud voices to ward away danger. The gibberish eventually became the proper names of a litany of contemporary artists. The process was initiated by the name Will oughby, Willoughby Sharp, the impresario of the specific Hudson River pier project on which Lawler and her friend worked.5 Lawler continued to add names to this piece until 1982, including those of the Neo-Expressionist masters of the 1980s: Enzo Cucchi, Fran cesco Clemente and Julian Schnabel. Lawler dodges name recognition as much as she does interviews, avoiding the tendency of both practices to re nder the speaking subject, the authorial I, transparent and whole. On those rare occasions wh en she has granted interviews, she has 4 Fraser, 127. 5 Douglas Crimp, Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An Interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp, Louise Lawler: An Arrangement of Pictures (New York: Assouline, 2000), unpaginated.

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7 consistently expressed her discomfort with the potential collapse of work and artist that might ensue. As she put it in an interview with Martha Buskirk in 1994: And this points to one reason why I resist interviews: th ey foreground the artist tell too much about what wouldnt be known when confronting the work. In rereading and trying to rework my responses, I find I am always backing up, wondering why I responded as I did, and filling in.6 What this comment makes apparent is not only reluctance to foreground the artist over the work, but also a resistance to the construction of a centered subject of authority, to the author defined by Foucault as a field of conceptual or theoretical coherence.7 This marks a significant shift from the subject position of the conceptual artist/scholar who occupied the role of both artist and critic Key aspects of the written texts of, for instance, Dan Graham, Robert Smithson, Mel Bochner, Martha Rosler and Allan Sekula, were considered coterminous with the visual works produced by these artists. The practice of the ar tist/scholar, through twists and turns, is traceable back to what came to be called the Minimalist moveme nt. I am thinking here in particular of Donald Judd and Robert Morriss writings which had a dual function of defining and producing the terrain of Minima lism while also justifying thei r own practices within that field. Mary Kelly, in her perspicacious essa y, Re-viewing Modernist Criticism, addresses the crisis of artisti c authorship posed in the wake of Minimalism, in which the object becomes no more than a prop without the intervention of the actor/artist and his 6 Martha Buskirk, Interviews with Sherri e Levine, Louise Lawler, and Fred Wilson October 70 (Fall 1994), 108. 7 Michel Foucault, What is an Author? (1979), The Foucault Reader ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 111.

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8 script.8 Kelly specifically indicts the body of the artist in pe rformance art of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Performanc e artists relied on visual documentation to remain in circulation beyond the actual performances they enacted. Authenticity in art passes from the markings on a canvas to the real body performing art. As Kelly put it: In performance work it is no longer a question of investing the object with an artistic presence: the artist is present and creative subjectivity is given as the effect of an essential self-possession, that is of the artist's body and his inherent right of disposition over it.9 In this way, the artist and her/his body became the autonomous artwork, and the corporeal became the signature. This is not to imply that Lawlers practice carried over into Performance art, or that she presented her body as a source of authenticity. On the contrary, Lawlers authority has often been evacuated or displaced from her work. In its place is a work that demands the viewers activ e participation.10 Meaning is not located in the place of the artist, but in th e readings made by the viewer, and in the recognition of the art object as contiguous to its context, w ithin a system of fluctuating meanings and value. By experimenting with various media and installation designs, and 8 Mary Kelly, Re-viewing Modernist Criticism, in Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation ed. Brian Wallis (New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984), 87-103. 9 Ibid., 95. 10 I borrow here from Griselda Pollocks feminist model of art history, which requires a new kind of reading by the viewer and critic. (Although she references the medium of painting, her words can be applied to all art forms.) In the traditional model, the artwork is a transparen t screen through which you have only to look to see the artist as a psychologica lly coherent subject origina ting the meanings the work so perfectly reflects. The critical feminist model relies on the metaphor of reading rather than mirrorgazing. What we see on even the most figuratively illu sionistic paintings are signs, for art is a semiotic practice. The notion of reading in art renders the graphic marks and pain ted surfaces of art opaque, dense, recalcitrant; they never directly offe r up meaning but have to be deciphered, processed and argued over. Pollock, Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Arts Histories (London: Routledge, 1999), 98.

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9 always selecting an art form specific to the historical condition a nd contextual frame, Lawler also avoids the tr ap of a signature style. Lawlers work accentuates positions of power beyond the solitary artist-creator. These would include the roles of curators, deal ers, collectors and others who are active in determining the value of art. In the instance of the exhibition An Arrangement of Pictures, the gallery was fore grounded as a locus for the centr alization of meaning. This was especially fitting since the artists repr esented by Metro Pictures at the time were considered to be crucially concerned w ith critiquing representation, a perception thrown into high relief by the Pictures exhi bition, curated by Douglas Crimp at Artists Space in 1977. By highlighting the gallerys overdetermining role, Lawlers own public identity disappears into the apparatus, into the presentation/exhibition mechanism. In turn, the role of Metro Pictures, or any ot her like gallery, in promoting a particular brand of artists, is demonstrated.11 The fact that this mane uver took place in the early 1980s is not without significance. The network of galleries that comprised the New York scene exploded in the late 1970s, which prom pted the need for a greater degree of differentiation. Galleries began to take on dist inct identities, produced by slick marketing techniques and the overplay of hype. Artists associated themselves with particular galleries such as Metro Pictures, Mary B oone Gallery or Pace Wildenstein Gallery to gain greater recognizability and marketability. 11 The history of Metro Pictures stems from the gallery Artists Space, a thriving site for the emergence of new artists in New York, including the Pictures exhib ition, as well as the site of Lawlers fi rst New York exhibition in 1978, discussed in chapter 3. Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring opened Metro Pictures in 1980. Both women came to the venture with rich experience in gallery administration; Winer had been director of Artists Space for the previous five year s and Reiring had worked with Leo Castelli for five years.

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10 These changes mark a dramatic shift from the function of alternative spaces in New York in the early seventies. For example, in December 1969 Holly Solomon opened 98 Greene Street as a communal space where artists could show their work and interact with each other. 98 Greene Street, unlike Metro Pi ctures or the Mary Boone Gallery, did not function as a commercial gallery, but as a pe rformance space, wher e artists could enact plays, screen films and videotapes, and inst all paintings, photographs sculpture and textbased works. Decentered spaces for art such as 98 Greene Street became much more difficult to maintain with the transition from alte rnative sites to a codifi ed gallery system. What also became difficult to maintain in this process was a sense of artistic community, as well as the belief that ar tists were producing work in di alogue with their peers. Increasingly, the dialogue shifte d to one in which gallery owne rs and collectors played a central role.12 Lawler alluded to this shift with he r suggestion that the works exhibited in the An Arrangement of Pictures show coul d be sold for the combined price of each individual work with an additional 10 percen t fee for herself. The latter was to be channeled directly to her. As such, La wler underscored the economic interests and dealings of gallery owners and collectors, and re-emphasized the multiple non-aesthetic dimensions of art. By exhibiting the work of other Metro Pi ctures artists as part of her own solo exhibition, Lawler alluded to the overdeterm ining role of institutional forces on the 12 In the book The Art Dealers Janelle Reiring comments on the state of the New York art market just four years after the opening of Metro Pictures and the rapid tr ansformations affecting the sc ene. Artists are in a very strong position today vis-vis dealers, which is a major ch angeand a healthy onein the New York art market. Before the arrival of so many new galleries, there were many g ood artists without dealer representation. Now the galleries are competing for them New artists are given shows just to see if theyll catch on, so its no longer possible to stand back and follow an artists development before acting: the luxury we had of watching our artists for several years before opening Metro Pictures is a thing of the past. Laura De Coppet and Alan Jones, The Art Dealers (New York: Charles N. Potter, Inc./Publishers, 1984), 294.

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11 subject position of the individua l artist. As the large, co mplex network that produces value for art came to be accentuated and the gendered discourses of art came to be problematized, the function of power in the art world was shown to consist of a multiple network of positions rather than a one-to-one relationship. Michel Foucault described this dynamic succinctly in The History of Sexuality (1976): Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or al lows to slip away; power is exercised from innume rable points, in the interpla y of nonegalitarian and mobile relations.13 Where Foucault describes the interpla y of power between human relations within discourses and institutions, Lawler fo cuses on how power is enacted in the local context of the artworld th rough the manipulation of object stheir collection, display, attribution, commodificationand how these relationships produce meaning and value. Lawler demonstrates the di scourse of power most acutely in her photographs of artworks in spaces such as museums, privat e homes, and corporate offices. Such works formed the second section of An Arrangement of Pictures. These photographs critique the aesthetic object as defined through the rhetoric of modern ism. The deconstruction of the ostensibly autonomous artwork has preoccupied artists since the 1960s. Practitioners of what variously came to be called institu tional critique or cri tical postmodernism in the 1970s and 1980s deconstructed the in stitutional frames and challenged the conventional modes by which Western culture dete rmines and grants value to art. Hence the discrete object was revealed to be fully dependent on its presenta tional site for its various meanings. Institutional critique is a practice that emerge d with Minimalism, although subsequent artistic movements shifte d Minimalisms concern with physical sites 13 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 94.

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12 to open an exploration of the role of contex t and discourse on the production of artworks. As Miwon Kwon has argued, institutional critique, an extension of the phenomenological model associated with Minimalism, rev ealed the museum/gallery space as an institutional disguise, a normative exhibition convention serving an ideological function . that actively disassociate[s] the space of art from the outer world, furthering the institutions idealist imperati ve of rendering itself and its hierarchization of values objective, disintere sted, and true.14 Practitioners of institu tional critique directly clashed with the modernist paradigm of the art critic Clement Greenberg and his followers that called for the pursuit of a fully autonomous, pure art. By contrast, artists critical of the institutiona l framework of culture questioned the unspoken values and practices that overdetermined high art. As such, thrown into crisis were not just the selfreferential properties of a specific medium or the phenomenological relationship vis--vis the object and subject, but also the very basis of high culture in the late twentieth-century. The high modernist notion of th e object as self-contained and separate from culture, from the outer world, could no longer be taken fo r granted. Lawlers pho tographs attest to the daily mingling of high art a nd everyday cultur al objects. Art about Art In A Singular Modernity (2002), Fredric Jameson argue s for the bifurcation of modernism into high and late modes.15 This division is both philosophical and chronological, the latter desi gnated by the post Second World War period in Europe and 14 Miwon Kwon, One Place after Another, October 80 (Spring 1997), 88. Kwon follows the trajectory of site-specific art from the late 1960s and early 1970s to its current manifestation in a globalized world where the artist is a nomadic curato r, ethnographer and bureaucrat. 15 Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity, Essays on the Ontology of the Present (London: Verso Books, 2002).

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13 America. Philosophically, Jameson posits aut oreferentiality or se lf-designation as a key element of modernism. High modernist ar t created forms that had no prior existence or standard of measurement. Modernis t artists named these forms, and, more significantly, established their own criteria of use and value, often investing these forms with mythic and specialized meanings, but still holding them in tension with mass cultural forces. The purely aesthetic, in turn, is there by indissolubly linked to the requirement that it be ultimately impure.16 Thus, according to Jameson, the aesthetic cannot be fully divided from its own referent ; it cannot be fully autonomous. Aesthetic autonomy is an essential characteristic of what Jameson refers to as the ideology of modernism; yet once it has in fact become a characteristic, a systematic concept of modernism, a new form of modernism emer ges: late modernism. The concept of ideology becomes the hinge on which high modernism turns into late modernism, indicating a belated product not located within the modern movement itself.17 Jameson posits this mode of modernism as a distinctly American product of the Cold War. He tracks a shift in history when utopian desi res were deflated and consumerism replaced productivity. In response to these transf ormations, modernism becomes a programmatic system of replication. To describe this recalibrated modernism, Jameson addresses the works of authors in the circle of New Criticism, as well as the critical writings of Greenberg. For Greenberg, aesthetic autonomy was based on principles that were both anti-bourgeois and apolitical. This point of view allowed him to construct a transhistorical narrative for the 16 Ibid., 160. 17 Ibid., 197.

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14 arts in the legacy of German idealism. Fu rthermore, according to Greenberg the narrative of abstraction dispen sed with content as the terr ain of politics and ideological referentiality, and thus allowed the move toward an autonomy of medium/technique. Greenberg thereby continued the high modernis ts ability to revise the past to fit the present by tracing a history of modernist art be ginning with Manet that valued flatness above all other elements. This shifted the definition of modernism into a pursuit of the autonomy of the medium, and eliminated from the critical dimens ion of modernism any social, let alone political dimensions. James on argues for a constellat ion within the arts, including literature, centered on an autonomy of medium, with each acting as a model for the other in their opposition to culture. Rath er than Greenbergs kitsch, Jameson defines culture as the true enemy of art.18 Culture divides or mediates everyday life from art. It is not a separation of the aesthetic from nonaesthetic; culture acts spatially with the potential to transform life into art or art into life. For the modernists, life degraded art, and though they recognized their own aesthetic production as cultural, they purified the aesthetic of the cultural. Jameson thus points to the adoption of key high modernist concepts by late modernists, but shows how these concepts ar e now unified and collectively renewed with a definitive self-consciousne ss that was previously absent. He also stresses the significance of the emergence of a full-blown ideology of modernism that differentiates the practices of the late m odern from modernism proper.19 In many ways, the distinction between high and late modernism hinges on these practices. The high modernists knew 18 Ibid., 177. 19 Ibid., 197.

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15 that what they were doing was new and allo wed it to come from a space of innovative exploration. The late modernists, by contrast, established a practice rooted in an ideology already enacted earlier in the century. Late modernist practice cemented modernism into a codified rhetoric that then fueled a reflex ivity more concerned with the status of the artist as modernist, with an art about ar t, than with an art about representation itself.20 Many of the artists practicing institutional critique make art about art. Following the example of Pop Art, Lawler, along with va rious other artists in the eighties, took up what Greenberg deemed to be detritusnamely contentand (re)asserted its value to the story of art. In the process, the critical modernism of the histor ical avant-garde that sought to fuse advanced art with everyday lif e in order to transf orm the latter in a progressive direction was summoned. Andreas Huyssen in The Search for Tradition: Avantgarde and Postmodernism in the 1970s (1981) called for a distinction between the two formations, the avant-garde and modern ism, which are often conflated in the literature.21 Drawing on the writings of Peter Brg er, Huyssen defines avant-garde as the work produced by early twentieth -century artists in the spir it of revolution. The aim of this work, according to Huyssen, was to integr ate art and life, and in turn to undermine, attack, and transform the bourgeois institution art.22 By contrast, modernism is defined as that art praxis founded on an autonomy and purity of the art object separate from mass culture. For Huyssen, the writings of Gree nberg and the artworks of the Abstract 20 Ibid., 198. 21 Andreas Huyssen, The Search for Tradition: Avantgarde and Postmode rnism in the 1970s, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1986), 160-177. 22 Ibid., 167.

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16 Expressionist movement epitomi ze this notion of modernism. Huyssen believes that the tradition of the avant-garde was revitalized by the Pop art movement, and by the artistic movements that followed, but only as an endgame: The American postmodernist avantgarde, therefore, is not only the endgame of avantgardism. It also represents the fragmentation and the decline of the avantgar de as a genuinely critical and adversary culture.23 With the transformations brought on by the culture industry, the landscape of art had been completely transformed, as the line that formerly separated high art from mass culture was erased. Advanced, critic al art thereby lost whatever potential it formerly had to counter and ul timately transform society. The term subversive complicity was coined in the late 1980s to address the practice of Simulationism by artists such as Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Philip Taaffe, and Meyer Vaisman. Alison Pearlman and other writers have also applied this term to the work of artists practicing not only Simu lationism but also Appropriation. Pearlman specifically cites the work of Barbara Kr uger to illustrate subversion by seduction. Kruger, she argues seduc[es] the viewer on the basis of th e ingrained appeal of an appropriated image and then subvert[s] the view ers expectations just when the viewer was most attentive to the work.24 Pearlman goes on to distinguish this strategy, which she sees as rooted in contemporary media stra tegies such as advertising, from an avantgarde approach that utilizes the revolutiona ry rhetoric of sudden overthrow, protest, and refusal.25 Whereas postmodern artists sought to engage politically with the art world, 23 Ibid., 170. 24 Alison Pearlman, Unpackaging Art of the 1980s (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 99. 25 Ibid.

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17 locally, and with the outer world at large, the realm of culture is no longer distinct from that of art or any other for that matter because capital has colonized all areas of existence. The changing relationship of mass culture and high art is one of the defining characteristics of the shift from modernism to postmodernism. Rather than presenting alternative modes of experience, postmodern artists work critic ally within the confines of complicity. Art as a Souvenir of Culture Lawlers photographs of art objects with in the spaces of collectors homes and offices negotiate this complicity and presen t contested juxtapositions such as the art object and the everyday object, avant-garde and kitsch, high art and mass culture. Unlike Pop arts insertion of everyday images into th e frame of high art, La wler photographs the living and breathing juxtapositi ons and contradictions of hi gh art and mass culture. As such, she interrogates the position of ar t outside the common spaces of exhibition, questioning the value associated with those spaces, while also presenting the power of display.26 These quotidian spaces complement the sy mbolic value of the museum/gallery complex in the determination of the value a nd meaning of art. Lawlers photographs open up a number of multifaceted questions about the role of the collector/consumer within the institution of art, the role of the objet dart as economic currency, and the role of space as transformative of an artworks value. In these ways, Lawlers pictures 26 I argue here for a re-assessment of the value of spaces that display art, i.e. the collectors home, outside the museum complex. The museum as a site of power has been richly excavated in many texts, naming just a few, which have been useful to my studies: Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum (London: Routledge), Daniel Buren, 5 Texts (New York: The John Weber Gallery and London: The Jack Wendler Gallery, 1973), Douglas Crimp, On the Museums Ruins (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1993), Carol Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (London: Routledge, 1995), Hans Haacke, Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business (New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art and Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1986), Brian ODoherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (Santa Monica, California: The Lapis Press, 1976).

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18 straddle both the discipline of art and sociol ogy, and are conducive to readings not unlike those pursued by cultural studies. Evoking Jame sons definition of culture as the space of mediation between art and everyday life, La wler considers artwor ks as material and symbolic tools employed by their owners in their full contradicti onas objects that at once indicate status and distinction and locate their owners within a popular cultural system. Thus art objects both separate th e collector and enmesh her/him further in culture.27 The relationship of the collector to the ar twork shifted in the 1980s. One of the most important theorists of this transiti on was Jean Baudrillard who argued for the primacy of sign value in contemporary art.28 In particular, Baudrilla rd tracked the way in which practices of collecti ng increased the sign value of the collector/consumer. Baudrillard traced the move in the postwa r period away from traditional (Marxist) notions of the commodity, with its links to use value, towa rd the circulation of objects within a system of sign exchange value. Hi s theories on the political economy of the sign were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and coincided with the increased importance of the auction house within the fi eld of contemporary art. While auction houses had been operative for most of the twentieth-century, Baudrillard showed that 27 In addition to Jamesons notion of culture, I am also deploying the term culture as understood by cultural studies, which does not have one singular definition, but includes culture as defined by Paul Willis: the very material of our daily lives, the bricks and mortar of ou r most commonplace un derstandings or culture both as a way of lifeencompassing ideas, attitu des, languages, practices, institutions, and structures of powerand a whole ra nge of cultural practices: artistic fo rms, texts, canons, architecture, mass-produced commodities, and so forth. Cary Nels on, Paula A. Treichler, and Lawrence Grossberg, Introduction, Cultural Studies 4-5. 28 Two of the more significant essays about art and signification for my purposes written by Jean Baudrillard in the late sixties and early seventies include Gesture and Signature: The Semiurgy of Contemporary Art and The Art Auction: Sign Exchange and Sumptuary Value. These essays were later collected into a book, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (St. Louis, Missouri: Telos Press Ltd., 1981), 102-11 and 112-122.

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19 never before had these institutions played such an important role in establishing the price of contemporary art. Dealers began to us e the auction house to make the prices of contemporary art public and thus to stabilize them, establishing relatively firm sets of value that could be applied as a barometer for exchange. Together with the publicity machine, Baudrillard argued, the auction house could also be used to endow the collector with a public sign value. Reluctant to i nvest cash because of the recession and the declining value of the US do llar in the global market, co llectors in the seventies increasingly bought art works as currency, functioning as sumptuar y expenditures that could be traded and sold fo r increasing amounts of money.29 In 1980, John Russell of The New York Times reported on the breakdown of confid ence in every alternative mode of investment, whereby the work of art functions primarily as an ostentatious form of travelers check . In times of crisis great art is an immediately recognizable and rapidly negotiable form of wealth.30 The practice of purchasing art as speculation, as an investment, and not purely for personal pl easure (or even noble obligation noted by Foster), becomes supreme. Art thus become s a souvenir of the experience of culture.31 29 Irving Sandler, Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s (New York: Icon Editions, 1996), 426. The art-mark et buildup in America had begun after the recession of 1974-75. Exacerbated by an oil crisis and the tremendous inflation it triggered, the slump gave rise to a new kind of thinking about investment in art. Many Americans panicked as they saw their cash reserves dwindle. This caused them to acquire solid assets, such as real esta te, precious gemsand art. People began to think of works of art not just as luxury items but as tangible properties. 30 John Russell, What Price Art? Todays Auction Boom Mixes Smart Money and Pounding Hearts, The New York Times (May 31, 1980), 14. Russell goes on to write: The auction boom also has to do with the instability of all other forms of investment. There are still plenty of people in the world who have more money than they know what to do with. They dont want to own stock. They got burned in silver. Their general situation is such that they have to leave town in a hurry. So what are they to do? They buy art. Art gets their names in the papers as persons of substance. Art looks nice on the wall. You can take art almost anywhere, and great art has never yet not gone up in price. 31 Hal Foster, writing in 1985, comments in the Introduction to his book, Recodings on the role of art to collectors. In effect, the bourgeoisie abandoned its own avant-garde artists and cultural experts (whose competence is now often dismissed if it does not fit the political agenda). Though federal governments may offer token support, art (at least in the United St ates) is today the plaything of (corporate) patrons

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20 Lawlers photographs illustra te the emergence of a culture rooted in the belief that possession is the key to authenticity.32 For instance, the photograph, Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber, Inc. 1982 (Figure 2), exhibited in the An Arrangement of Pictur es show, depicts two men working in the office of Paine Webber. Behind them, three works by Roy Lichtenstein hang on the wall. The photograph functions on two levels. First, it presents documenta ry information of the increasingly widespread phenomenon wh ereby investment companies and banks established programs promoting the value of art as economic currency.33 Lawlers photograph alludes to the fact that Paine We bber was a financial advisory company, and accentuates the easy blending of art and money accomplished by the company. On a second level, however, Lawler su mmons the characteristic humor of Lichtensteins works by framing the photogra ph to encompass the paintings in their entirety. The top painting represents a woman who si ngs: The melody haunts my reverie. The painting below it features a chiseled-faced man being punched. The whose relation to culture is less one of noble obligatio n than of overt manipulationof art as a sign of power, prestige, publicity. Recodings 4. Though it may be worthwhile to ask when, if ever, art functioned purely as pleasure. Rosalind Krauss makes the connection between the Benjaminian collector and the new tastemakers when she writes, But even as the true coll ector performs this ritual of liberating the objects in his collection, the consumer debases that gesture by giving it its commodity form, since the consumers collecting consists in nothing more than packaged memories in the form of souvenirs. Rosalind Krauss, Louise Lawler: Souvenir Memories, Louise Lawler A Spot on the Wall exhibition catalogue, (Kln, Germany: Oktagon, 1998), 38. 32 Nicolaus Mills, The Culture of Triumph and the Spirit of the Times, Culture in an Age of Money: The Legacy of the 1980s in America ed. N. Mills (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1990), 26. 33 Marylin Bender wrote that in 1985 Citibank hired th ree art historians to be part of the Art Advisory Service, a group that counseled the banks clients on the maintenance and acquisition of collections, including representing them at auction sales in her article, Sothebys and a Few Big Banks Are Lending Money on Art as Never Before. But There s a Risk in Using Calder as Collateral. The New York Times (February 3, 1985), 1, 26. Already by 1979, Sotheb ys and Citibank had entered into an agreement in which Sothebys advised the bank on its purchases of ar t and antiques. In a conflict of interest Sothebys acted both as the seller and as the advisor to potential buyers of the goods the auction house or its competitorsdealers and other auctioneerssell. Rita Reif, Sothebys To Advise Citibank, The New York Times (September 20, 1979), C22.

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21 word POW! designates the impact while the cartoon bubble reads, Sweet dreams, baby! The sharp humor and kitschy-cartoon st yle of the paintings looms large within the frame of Lawlers photograph, but at th e same time the two me n ignore the paintings in favor of their business deal ings. As a result, Lichtenste ins paintingstheir meanings and historiesliterally function as backdrops to this otherwise unexceptional office scene. The photograph thereby raises the question of valuethe value of the works to those who purchase them. Are the artworks in questi on solely objects of consumption, functioning as commodity sign forms? What new value do they accrue to the consumer that is distinct from their own history? Baudrillard writes that a s ign object is neither given nor exchanged, it is manipulated by the subject causing difference.34 The art objectbought and sold by the artist, collector dealer, auction houseenters a system of contingent and variable value whereby it is codi fied as a sign. Within this context, the art object only acquires value from the other signs within the system.35 In the case of the Lichtenstein paintings, for instance, the value is located pr imarily in their signature style; it is the name of the artist and what that artist signifi es that endows these pa intings with value. Another example from An Arrangement of Pictures is a photograph of a collectors domestic space, Arranged by Mera and Donald Rubell 1982 (Figure 3). Captured within the frame are various artw orks, including a pain ting by Robert Longo and a sculpture by Deborah Butterfield, al ong with common living room furniture: a couch, coffee table, chairs, and light fixtur es. The angle of the photograph emphasizes 34 Baudrillard, The Ideological Genesis of Needs, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign 65. The sign object is neither given nor exchanged: it is appropriated, withheld and manipulated by individual subjects as a sign, that is, as coded difference. 35 Baudrillard shows how th is is similar to the function of myth s according to Levi-Strauss. Ibid., 66.

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22 the cluttered space of the room. The shallow pe rspectival depth throws all of the objects in the room into close proximity. Taken in itself, this detail marks a significant break from the distance allotted artworks within a museum/gallery site. The couch acts as the organizing element of the room, once again re ndering the artworks as backdrops to the living space of the collector. Lawler makes the unusual but obviously deliberate choice of selecting the photograph th at features a dog, presumably the Rubells pet, walking through the image. The movement of the anim al renders him out of focus. The position of the blurred dog echoes the Butterfield hors e directly behind it. The dog throws the sculpted horse into crisis, blurring its si gn function and accentuating its opacity. The horse stands in fluctuating re lation to the various signs of the roomthe paintings behind it that unite it under the categor y art, the couch in front of it that transforms it into interior decor, and the dog that points to an external referent in the game of representation. Traversing all of these photographs, th en, is the recurring question of the relationship between art and life, or art and lived expe rience. This question is foregrounded by the removal of the artwork from the isolated white cube, contemplating it now within the context of everyday, nonart objects (and living animals!) in a collectors working and living space. The phot ographs thus summon the discourse of the historical avant-garde outlined above by H uyssen, and question what happens to that discourse in this context. In addition, the photographs connect mass culture to the domains of the domestic and the decorative, two categories traditionally severed from critical modernist discourse, but revitalized by feminist debates of the 1970s and 80s.

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23 Lawlers photographs of arrangements with in the domestic order call into question what happens to an artwork when it is dom esticated. What happens to its meaning and value? Just as the Lichtenstein paintings we re turned into corpor ate backdrops, Lawlers Pollock and Tureen Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Connecticut 1984 (Figure 4), blurs a work by Pollock and a ceramic soup tureen, playing the drips and swirls of Pollocks paintings against th e decorative form of the tureen. Helen Molesworth poses this ch allenging question of the photograph: Do Pollocks and Warhols really lose their intellectual, critical, and radical credentials when they are seen to be decorativeor worse yet, when they are seen to be like things such as objets dart ?36 Or, positioned another way, is the domestic sphere traditionally aligned with the feminine, the threatened Other to the mode rnist, masculine space of production? Is Lawler recording the contem porary shift from a societ y of production to one of consumption by marking the domestic within her photographs?37 With Pollock and Tureen then, the domestic and decorative are presented as concepts already existing within art histor y but debased as the other modern(ism), much like the figure of the sexed woman within modernist literature and art. Yet Lawler 36 Helen Molesworth, Louise Lawler at Skarstedt Fine Arts, NY, Documents 15 (Spring/Summer 1999), 62. 37 One could also include the department store as an Other to the modernist space of production fictionalized in Emile Zolas novel, Au bonheur des dames James Meyer cites Greenbergs dislike of the exhibition Good Design held as a collaborative effort between the Museum of Modern Art and the Chicago Merchandise Mart annually from 1949 until 1955. The exhibition-cum-department store encouraged the public to purchase the latest in modern design. This blurring of art and interior dcor transformed MoMA into a Christma stime shopping mall, and granted commodity objects the aesthetic version of a Good Housekeeping seal, as noted by Mary Anne Staniszewski in her book The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2001), 176. James Meyer, Minimalism (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press), 217.

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24 is also re -presenting the domestic, the collector, as a site of pow er within the institution of art redefining both the value and meani ng of art, and theref ore complicating the (un)easy binary of private/public. This furthe r destabilizes the site less modernist object, as well as the position of the artist as autonomous genius. By photographing these spaces, Lawler returns the privatized works back into public discourse, calling attention to the powerful role of the i ndividual collector as another nod e within the nonegalitarian and mobile relations of power. Lawlers prac tice must be placed within the historical trajectory of the feminist movement that spread across the U.S. in the sixties and seventies chanting the slogan t he personal is political, a ca ll to interrogate the two domains of public and private believed unfai rly polarized and unequally privileged. Her photographs question whether or in what ways the personal is always political. How does the private space of the collector affect the work of art? To repeat Molesworths question, does an artwork lose its credentials when it shifts into the private sphere? The affected object returns to the public sphere now within the photographic frame with a new set of questions or challenges. Pushing Molesworths question further, one might ask whether or not art, created with in postmodernism, confronted by its own inevitable commodification, might adequately be examined and valued by the same, even radical, criteria that championed the strate gies of the now-defunct avant-garde? Hal Foster in Subversive Signs(1982) recognized a new model of political art demonstrated by Lawler, Allan McCollum, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and others, which extends beyond conditions of production and exhibition.38 But he also places these artists in opposition to other artists practici ng institutional critique who firmly sought the abolition 38 Foster, Subversive Signs, Recodings 103.

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25 of the status quo in art.39 Yet Fosters language betrays hi s position as a critical modernist who continues to promote art as having a subve rsive potential, able to exist outside the system. As such, he criticizes Lawler for operating within the system, and posits Lawler (and McCollum) as an ironic collabora tor of arts market apparatus.40 Rosalind Krauss, on the other hand, charac terizes Lawlers style as tender neutrality and Lawlers approach to her subjects as non-judgme ntal, meditative, and dispassionate.41 Situating Lawlers strategy within a context fully pervaded by the spectacle, a context in which the postmodern artist has accepted the commodification of all aspects of life, Krauss comments on th e absence of outrage, a response utterly distinctive of the avant-garde. The word neut ral also finds its way into a short essay on Lawler by Johannes Meinhardt: Her photograp hs are neutral: they neither denounce nor criticize, nor do they take a sta nd with regard to the situation.42 Documentary is deployed to describe a practice believed to be absent of commentary or deliberate use of the camera. This word choice by both aut hors is interesting, and somewhat hollow, because in many ways it recall s the rhetoric of modernism, what Kwon distinguished as objective, disinterested, and true.43 But what it reveals is a value system no longer 39 Foster includes the following quote from Daniel Buren in the footnotes to the essay, Recodings 221: the ambition, not of fitting in more or less adequately w ith the game, nor even of contradicting it, but of abolishing its rules by playing with them, and playing another game, on another or the same ground, as a dissident. Buren, Reboundings trans. Philippe Hunt (Bruusels: Daled & Gevaert, 1977), 73. 40 Ibid., 106. Like a dye in the bl oodstream, the work of th ese artists does delineate the circulation system of art, but it also operates within its terms. If ar tists like Buren and Asher may become guardians of the demystified myths of the art museum, then artists lik e Lawler and McCollum may indeed serve as ironic collaborators of its market apparatus. 41 Krauss, 35. 42 Johannes Meinhardt, The Sites of Art: Photographing the In-Between, Louise Lawler: An Arrangement of Pictures unpaginated. 43 Kwon, One Place after Another, 88.

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26 concretized but now completely contingent, and the absence of a way to discuss works produced within the spectacle both complicit and critical. La wlers practice challenges any traditional notions and values of inside /outside, public/private, and political/critical. In Living with Contradict ions: Critical Practices in the Age of Supply-Side Aesthetics, Abigail Solomon-Godeau investigat es the binary of political and critical in Lawlers works.44 Written in the late 1980s her essa y points to the appropriation of postmodernism by the media and its employment as a stylistic tool. Solomon-Godeaus text echoes many of the propositions made by Lawler in her own work. Though Lawler does not write in defense of her work, nor gran t interviews as a tool to further elaborate its meaning, the work itself questions and cr itiques the institution of art, and works toward a redefinition of the institution. La wlers practice maps the ambivalent, not ambiguous, position of the postmodern artista position that I would argue is shared by Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzerto the culture at large and to the possible space of contestation that an artist can occupy within culture.45 Solomon-Godeau calls for new ways to evaluate critical art practices in a system w ithout an oppositional outside, a system in which the market is behind nothing, it is in everything.46 The critic and the artist must explore contradictions and con tingencies to produce a space of contestation 44 Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Living with Contradictio ns: Critical Practices in the Age of Supply-Side Aesthetics, Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions and Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 124-148. The essay was written in 1987. 45 I make a distinction here between ambivalent as simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action versus ambiguous as doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness. 46 Victor Burgin, The End of Art Theory, The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity (London: Macmillan, 1986), 174; as cited in Solomon-Godeau, 14 5. In contemporary capitalism, in the society of the simulacrum, the market is behind nothing, it is in everything. It is thus that in a society where the commodification of art has progressed apace with the aestheticisation of the commodity, there has evolved a universal rhetoric of the aesthetic in which commer ce and inspiration, profit and poetry, may rapturously entwine.

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27 within the institution, while realizing ones co mplicity with that same system. In this way the word collaboration appends a suppl ementary definition, one that refuses to limit itself only to intentional, voluntary pr actices. Lawlers comment on art operates within this multivalent matrix. Art is part and parcel of a cumulative and collective enterprise viewed as seen fit by the prevailing culture. A work of art is produced by many different things. It isnt just the result of an unencumbered creative act. Its always the case that what is allowed to be seen and understood is part of what produces the work. And art is always a collaboration with what came before you and what comes after you.47 Lawler has collaborated with various ar tists throughout her career, including, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Sol LeWitt and Allan McCollum. Furthermore, her photographs of arrangements can also be seen as collaborations with an art history preceding her and concurrent with her. The next chapter analyzes these collaborations and the ways they unfold into a discourse of power through the ac ts of selection and display. 47 Crimp, Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp, unpaginated.

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28 CHAPTER 3 SELECTION, PRESEN TATION AND DISPLAY An Open Economy of Signs Lawlers photographs are not snapshots; th ey are carefully composed. They signify through the process of captured juxtapositions, croppings an d displacements. The forms of the photographs echo the enframed conten t. The viewer thus encounters dense, multivalent works. The subject matter of th e photographs often point to hierarchical divisions within the institu tion of art. Lawler re-prese nts these divisions through the formal techniques of decentering and reposi tioning. For example, a photograph in the second section of An Arrangement of Pictures, Arranged by Claire Vincent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City 1982 (Figure 5), displaces the sculptural object, a marble representation of the Impe rial Prince and his dog by the artist JeanBaptiste Carpeaux, to the margins of the fr ame. The accompanying didactics, including the descriptive label and interp retive text, fill the center of the picture. The composition, as much as the visual subject, refers to the hi erarchical importance of the artists name to the institution of art granted primary positi on on a wall label. The usually overlooked supplementary material of the museum apparatus now replace s the art object in significance. By presenting the written text more prominently than the art object proper, Lawler calls attention to the use within muse um practice of the text as a frame mediating the viewers knowledge of the object. Such mechanisms of legitimacy thread the

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29 viewer through the apparatus of the e xhibition, justifying th e object, albeit on a preconscious level.1 This exercise repeats throughout Lawlers photographic practice. Her photographs re-position the spectators view of artworks, carefully direct ing attention to the objects, traditions, and hierarchies that need to be asserted, challenged and sometimes inverted. Lawlers images are not mimetic reflections of particular settings, but rather conscious productions of new relationshi ps that have hitherto been overlooked. And although Lawler does not manipulate the found situati ons or scenes she photographs, her choices are located in the meticulous process of selection that drives her practice. This point is executed effectively in the last group of photographs exhibited in An Arrangement of Pictures, which featured Lawlers arrangements of artworks. The photographs document multiple arrangements of works by different artists, including Jenny Holzer, Sherrie Levine, Roy Lichtenste in, Allan McCollum, Peter Nadin and Andy Warhol (Figures 6-10). With this instal lation Lawler positions herself as designer, arranger, and photographer. Th ese photographs point to the act of selection necessary to exhibit, collect and even produce art. The works foreground the viewer/collectors inexplicable gravitational pull towards an object as determined by aesthetic choices. Set against different colored backgrounds and thrown into a series of relationships with other artworks, the supposedly autonomous object loses any inherent essence given it by modernist rhetoric. In turn, the power of aesthetic selection is spotlighted as a determining influence on meaning. The produc tion of meaning is literalized not only through the relationships of the works to each other, but also through the actual design of 1 Therese Lichtenstein, Louise Lawler, Arts Magazine (February 1983), 5.

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30 their presentation. The altern ating colored backgrounds, along with the secondary order of matting and size, affect the visual reading of the images. This is most readily seen in the contrast between two arrang ements of copies of Eliot Po rter photographs by Levine in (Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black (Figure 8) and (Jenny Holzer and Other Artists) Kelly Green (Figure 9). The mat sizes of th ese works are noticeably enlarged from Black to Kelly Green The colored backgrounds indirectly reference the infamous white cube of modern art while also imp licating the supplementary design elements of an exhibition. Lawler also links this arrang ement to the display of objects meant for sale, or what is known as product shots. Like a window in a retail shop, each photoarrangement becomes a stage on which to rehearse the displa y of objects. Lawler consistently demonstrates a c oncern for the contiguous relationship, exploring the variable results of juxtapositions like a curato r. The words, contiguous and contingent, summon many of the issues at the heart of Lawlers practice. They imply that the production of the artwork is dependent on the movement of the object through various sites. All th e locations and relationships outside the studio affect the discrete object. Lawlers pr actice is fundamentally mobile articulating the reciprocal power of the object and its context. John C. Welchman, addressing the issue of the frame in modern art history, declares the practice of institutiona l critique to be so thoroughly contextual that it beco mes a kind of social formalism.2 Although a model of contextualism is axiomatic to Lawlers pr actice, it is a model of contextualism with dissolvable walls, borders, and margins. Ra ther than naming a particular site that centralizes meaning, signification circulates th rough multiple sites. As a result, the art 2 John C. Welchman, In and around the Second Frame, The Rhetoric of the Frame: Essays on the Boundaries of the Artwork ed. Paul Duro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 220-221.

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31 object both undergoes and exercises power in its mobility.3 Kate Linker describes this model of context as boundl ess: its margins are always eroded by the artworks displacement and reinscription in other contexts, by a rhythm of decontextualization and recontextualization that forms the proper histo ricity of the work. She calls this an open economy of signs.4 Lawler plays the abstract nature of the sign against its concrete forms, unfolding the contingencies of value as a set of dynamic, mobile interrelationships. In addition, the works from Lawlers a rrangements depend on each other for meaning within a historical genealogy. At a time when the practice of history was quickly being buried, Lawler re cognized the role played by the history of art in the formulation of contemporary art. Rath er than irony, the works function through collaboration as a recognition of the artists relationship to her own history (And art is always a collaboration with what came before you and what comes after you), instead of a juxtaposition by violence.5 The inclusion of Warhol a nd Lichtenstein in Lawlers 3 This idea is indebted to Michel Foucault. Pow er is employed and exer cised through a net-like organization. And not only do individuals circulate betw een its threads; they are always in the positions of simultaneously undergoing and exercising this power. Foucault, Two Lectures, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977 (New York: Random House, 1980), 98. 4 Kate Linker, Rites of Exchange, Artforum (November 1986), 99. 5 I reference several strains of art production in the 1980 s and their relation to models of history. One strain is represented by David Salles work. David Salle, in conversation with Robert Rosenblum, responds to Rosenblums assertion that his practice of appropria ting imagery is one of collision, unnerving contrast by stating: He [the poet Paul Muldoon] was actually citing Dr. Johnson, who described metaphysical poetry as heterogeneous subjects yoked together through violence. Thats my church; sign me up. David Salle talks to Robert Rosenblum, Artforum (March 2003), 75. Hal Fosters essays from the 1980s (and collected later in the book Recodings ) are probably the most incisive and critical account of this model of history. Foster writes in Against Pluralism, 17: Our new art tends to assume historical formsout of context and reified. Parodic or straight, these quotations plead for the importance, even the traditional status, of the new art. In certain quarters this is seen as a return to history; but it is in fact a profoundly a historical enterprise, and the result is often aesthetic pleasure as false consciousness, or vice versa.To see other periods as mirrors of our own is to turn history into narcissism; to see other styles as open to our own is to turn history into a dream. But such is the dream of the pluralist: he seems to sleepwalk in the museum.

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32 arrangements contrasts the use of historical styles sampled by her contemporaries David Salle and Julian Schnabel and their stylistic pa stiche. Lawler traces the roots of current art practices of appropriation and text-based art to Pop ar t. Disavowing the myth of originality, Lawler grounds th e use of appropriated imagery culled from mass culture as directly indebted to the history of Pop art. In contrast to an anxiety of influence, Lawlers art continually re-inscribes itself within its own history, neither destroying its predecessors nor using history artificially as a stylistic tool. With these arrangements Lawler employs the dialectic of decoration within modernist discourse already mapped out in he r photographs of arrangements of other peoples collections. Her inte rest in the juxtaposition of art and decoration seeks to unearth and explore the hidden, repressed history of the deco rative within modernism, which in many ways functions as the Other to modernism. Mary Anne Staniszewski narrates the evolution of exhibition design at the Museum of Modern Art in her book, The Power of Display Relevant for my interests is he r research on Alfred H. Barr, the leading curator and developer of modern art in the United States. Staniszewski details Barrs shift away from an exhibition design that treated paintings as room decor. This was especially crucial in MoMAs first building from 1929 to 1932, a townhouse on Fifth Avenue. As Staniszewski shows, the exhibi tion of art had to dis tinguish itself from interior decoration, perhaps because of its architectural determination as a once domesticated space: In Barrs modern insta llations, works of art were treated not as decorative elements within an overpowering architecture but as elements within an exhibition whose aesthetic dimension took pre cedence over architectural and site-specific

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33 associations.6 Exhibition design was transforme d from the traditional skied installation of the nine teenth-century salon, or the dense, tiered ar rangement of artworks, into an ordered system that accentuated th e discrete artwork. Th is was accomplished by allotting the work plenty of space on the wall and hanging it at eye level. As a result, the viewers sense of control and autonomy with in that apparatus was also re-affirmed. Staniszewski usefully emphasizes the power of installation design in the production of arts meaning, and like Lawler, points to the wh ole installation in which the artwork is only one element. Both foreground the positi on of installation as productive of the works signification for the viewer. A work of art in a museum or gallery setting is rarely seen on its own. Instead the work is placed within an ideologically constructed design, which in turn constructs a view er through its seamless display. On Display: The Spectacle of Art The subject of Louise Lawler's colla boration with Allan McCollum, For Presentation and Display: Ideal Settings, at the Diane Brown Gallery in New York City in 1984 were the elements of exhibition desi gn (Figure 11). The installation showcased a hundred black hydrocal objects used as both pedestals for artworks and for the display of commercial articles such as jewelry. The pe destals were arranged in set patterns and bathed in a glowing blue lig ht. A floating image of $200.00 doubled as both the price of the work and the artwork itself. The image of the price activated the gallery as a site of commercial exchange. The gallery was foregrounded as a miniature market place of 6 Staniszewski, 66. See note 39.

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34 specialized goods, which traded ae sthetics and culture for capital.7 The lighting display accentuated further the spectacle of art within capitalism and the use of aura to sell art. The blue light and the monumentality of the em pty bases create a solemn aura vital to the success of the work. Kate Linker in her inci sive review of the e xhibition points to the concept of ideal settings. These settings, which include the gallery and the museum, are invested in perpetuating the aura of an art object in order to su stain the validity and economic value of that object. These ide al settingsputativel y the optimum arenas for the presentation of artare also the loci of idealism; the primacy accorded to the base (as to the frame) phrases the terms of arts transcendence, of its detachment from the external world.8 The function of the base, lik e the frame of a painting, is to demarcate the artwork from its surroundings, both immediate (the groun d) and larger (the external world). The base severs the artwork from its place a point articulated by Rosalind Krauss in her seminal essay, Sculpture in the Expanded Field.9 The fetishization of the base allows the work its mobility, its sitelessness, but al so its entombment in the museum. Lawler and McCollum highlight these functions of th e base and its fetishization in modern art practice, further accentuated by the hovering price tag. By using the supplements of exhibition desi gn, lighting and pedestals, as the central elements of their installation, Lawler and McCollum emphasize the power of 7 Therese Lichtenstein, Louise Lawler/Alan McCollum, Arts Magazine (December 1984), 34. 8 Kate Linker, Allan McCollum/Louise Lawler, Artforum (January 1985), 87. 9 Rosalind Krauss, Sculpture in the Expanded Field, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture ed. Hal Foster (Seattle, Washington: Bay Press, 1983), 35.

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35 presentation and display to the circulat ion and distribution of art. Through the theatrical staging the otherwise ordinary hydroc al bases were consumed as art. Rather than just transforming the everyday object into fine art, as in the Duchampian model, the artists tellingly point to the act of display within a nexus of aesthetic and commercial exchange, in this case the gallery: It is through display that material products become objects of contemplation and en ter the cycle of consumption.10 The exhibition denaturalizes the idealist hermetic space of the museum/gallery by actively displaying the price of the work and the pres entational tools employed to sell objects. The economic aspect of display is quite literally put on display. The press release for the exhibiti on written by Lawler and McCollum acknowledges their attempt to engage and incl ude the spectator within the space of what is virtually a three-dimensional advertisement.11 Beauty acts as a se ductive tool for the commodification of artworks and sets them in to a parallel discourse of advertisement and publicity. Throughout her work Lawler recognize s the value of beauty to the display of art and uses it in another way di scussed at the end of the chap ter. Beauty returns to art after the dematerialization of the conceptual object as an instrument of seduction and subversion. The viewer is compelled by the de sign or aesthetics of the work, only to find herself/himself faced not with transcende nce but the commodification of culture. Appropriating the strategy of advertisement, Lawler and McCollum, in effect, put the spectacle of culture up for display. 10 Linker, Allan McCollum/Louise Lawler, 87. 11 Dan Cameron, Four Installations: Francesc Torres, Mierle Ukeles, Louise Lawler/Allan McCollum and Todt, Arts Magazine (December 1984), 70.

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36 Metaorders Lawlers collaboration with McCollum is an example of her installation practice sans photography, but she also gives prominence to this practice within her exhibition of photographs. Lawlers attention to the order of thi ngs reverberates beyond the frame of a single print. Meaning is al so constructed through the actual installation of her photographs, such as in the An Arrangeme nt of Pictures ex hibition. Therese Lichtenstein, in her review of the exhibiti on, recognized the parallel movement between the viewer moving through the sp ace of the gallery and the di splayed hierarchies, from a first order arrangement of actual worksthe installation of Metro Pictures artiststo the second order photographic arrangements. She continues: The multiple levels of representation that Lawler explores th rough her arrangements and photographs of arrangements are examined as formally analogous structures.12 Lichtenstein points out the specific installation of three works in th e second section of the exhibition representing arrangements of art in the Metropolitan Muse um of Art and the Museum of Modern Art that are located near the marg in of the wall. One of the photographs is the image of the Carpeaux object from the Metropolitan Museum of Art discussed above. Displaced to the edges of the photographic frame, the scul ptural group is further marginalized by its position on the wall of the gallery. Yet, th is reiteration centers Lawlers project of selection and installatio n. The hierarchical orders are re-arranged, and the supplementary support of installation design is foregrounded. 12 Lichtenstein, Louise Lawler, 5.

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37 Lawlers work forms a metaorder where the work exists between photography and installation. The doub ling of framesobjects and thei r boundless contextsserves as a mise en abme : the art object is continually re-inscr ibed within its system, and with each context seems to almost fade. The exhibi tion system engages in the construction of mobile meanings and values determined by multiple forces of intervention. Linker succinctly describes Lawle rs rhetorical use of mise en abme or the process of historical reinterpretation and contextual dissolve, as both aby ssal and telescopic.13 Abyssal locates no single origin for the m eaning of the artwork, instead the artwork continually opens, unfolds backwards, sidewa ys in history. Telescopic, on the other hand, characterizes the act of magnification pe rformed by Lawler's works, demonstrated in the focus on secondary materials and hierar chical divisions, which otherwise appear natural. The mobility of the object is echoed by the fl uidity of Lawlers artistic practice. She refuses to be anchored to any one single medium. Even in the exhibition of her photographs, she occupies a nebulous inter-spa ce of photography and installation art. The collaborations with other artists seek to avoid the glorification of the traditional artist-creator as singular. A dditionally, her artistic practice also includes the production of matchbooks equipped with clev er witticisms to disrupt th e supposedly transcendental experience of art. For example, matchbooks were produced for a group show in 1983 at Baskerville + Watson Gallery in New York C ity. The matchbooks publicized the title of the exhibition, Borrowed Time, along with a line taken from Jean-Luc Godards 13 Linker, Rites of Exchange, 99.

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38 Contempt : Every time I hear the word culture I take out my checkbook.14 The matchbooks act as vehicles for the circulati on of art and for an exploration of the contingent values accrued through that move ment. Other materials employed by Lawler include gift certificates, stati onery and invitations, all categ orized as supplementary but necessary to the survival of the institution of art. The invitation as an art form constitutes a significant part of La wlers collaboration with the artist Sherrie Levine. The works of the two artists came t ogether under the title A Picture Is No Substitute for Anything (1981-82), taken from a conversation between Carl Andre and Hollis Frampton in the early 1960s.15 Lawler and Levines project is significant not only for the various works produc ed but also for its collaborative aspect and for its location outside of the framework of any gallery system. Three of their works took the form of invitations. Lawler and Le vine created and distri buted invitations for each others exhibitions, single-night exhibitions in mostly non-art locations. This act trumped even the system of alternative art spaces burgeoning in New York since the seventies. This moment also marks the transi tion for both artists into the official gallery system; they were both invited to join the roster at Metro Pict ures Gallery in 1982. Levine compared their freedom during this period to Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show in the backyard. She con tinues, We made all the decisionswhat to show, where, when, what the announcement shoul d look like, who the invitees would be. 14 Of course, this line was already a transformation of the infamous quip made by Hitlers culture minister in the early 1940s: Every time I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver. This reference opens up further questions about the relationship of culture and politics, art and private property, culture and capitalism. 15 Carl Andre and Hollis Frampton engaged in a series of conversations in 1962-63, which were later published in the book 12 Dialogues: 1962-1963 ed. Benjamin H. D. Buchlo h (Halifax: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and New York University Press, 1980).

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39 We didnt have to ask anyones permission.16 The unrestricted structure allowed the artists to remain outside of the museum/galle ry system, or more aptly, to manipulate that system to present their own work in a self-determined environment. Another invitation distributed by the artist s announced a salonlike engagement at the Union Square studio of the deceased Ru ssian artist Dmitri Me rinoff. His widow preserved the studio intact fo llowing his death. With this invitation Lawler and Levine seized another artists work as their own. Ye t, rather than the usual appropriation of the finished object, it was the site of artistic creation that was displayed as the art object. The artists presented the experience of creating art, though one rooted in the traditional painting studio as opposed to the dark room. The experience of culture also replaced the art object in the invitations to a performance of the ballet Swan Lake. Each artist sent out invitations to a night of Swan Lake at Lincoln Center with th e requirement that tickets be purchased at the box office. These invites, mo re than the others, revealed an intended group of receivers, their economic bracket, and by extension, the audien ce that patronizes the arts. Both the event of a ballet and its location at Lincoln Center evoke a particular class of people, socially and economically. This invitation literalized the concept of buying the experience of art and all its connotations. Simila r to Lawlers collaboration with McCollum, the art object becomes th e abstracted spectacle of culture. A Picture Is No Substitute for Anything Lawler and Levine also co llaborated on a project for Wedge magazine, a small cultural journal founded by Phil Mariani a nd Brian Wallis. The spread featured 16 Sherrie Levine talks to Howard Singerman, Artforum (April 2003), 190.

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40 juxtapositions of MondriansLevines painted reproductions and Lawlers photographic reproductions of Piet Mondrian paintings and signature canvas shapes. With this project Lawler and Levine framed th eir artwork within the circulation of an art journal, following such art historical precu rsors as Mel Bochner and Robert Smithsons The Domain of the Great Bear in the magazine Art Voices (Fall 1966) and Dan Grahams Homes for America project in Arts Magazine (December 1966-January 1967). Along with the studio (Merinoff), the gallery, the museum, the collectors home and office, the art object is also threaded through the print media, acknowle dging that every write-up in a feature article or exhibition review grants the artist attent ion and prominence within the system of art. The reproduction of paintings by Mondrian circulates within the much-discussed practice of appropriation current at the time. Artists practicing and critics writing about appropriation art found theoretical support in Roland Barthess concept of the readyformed dictionary: this immense dictionary from which he [the au thor] draws a writing that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation th at is lost, infinitely deferred.17 Douglas Crimp in The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism (1980) borrows directly from Barthess idea of the infinitely deferred to di scuss a young group of photographerspeers of Lawlerwho subvert the modernist notion of originality while foregrounding the inherent multiplicity of the medium of photography: A group of young artists working with phot ography have addre ssed photographys claims to originality, showing those clai ms for the fiction they are, showing photography to be always a representation, always-already-seen. Their images are 17 Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author (1968), Image, Music, Text ed. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 147.

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41 purloined, confiscat ed, appropriated, stolen In their work, the original cannot be located, is always deferred; ev en the self that might have generated an original is shown to be itself a copy.18 Photography proved for many critics the medium par excellence to reveal art historys inextricable dependence on the genius of originality since it relies intrinsically on multiples, a mechanical hand and, significantly, th e representation of an exterior world as already represented and thus absent, an imita tion that is lost, infinitely deferred. Levine was at the forefront of this disc ussion with her re-photographs of works by famous art photographers such as Walker Evans, Edward Weston and Eliot Porter. Lawler, on the other hand, did not often find he r way into the critical texts defining the practice of appropriation. The reason for this absence may have been that in contrast to Richard Prince or Cindy Sherman, Lawler did not directly borrow the look of the images of advertisement or film, instead she used the terms of these media to engage or point to the way the apparatus functions. La wlers subtle, though astu te, depiction of the circulation of the market actually hindered he r circulation in that market when compared to her peers. In the Wedge spread each artist featured her wo rk on alternating pages. Levines pages are photographic reproductions of act ual paintings she made by mimicking the abstract works that characterize Mondrians career. By contrast, Lawlers pages in Wedge do not remain as thoroughly consistent. Her first photograph represents an oblique angle of a square Mondrian pain ting hung on a wall with an emphasis on the paintings frame and shadow on the wall. Her next image replicates this angle, though the crop of the print echoes the diamond-shape of Mondrians paintings and frames. The 18 Douglas Crimp, The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism, On the Museums Ruins with photographs by Louise Lawler (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2000), 118.

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42 third photo reproduces two Mondrian paintings side-by-side on e xhibition, one squareshaped and the other diamond-shaped. This is followed by a diamond-shaped photograph of an exhibition space with various works on th e wall and a sculpture under a glass case. Lastly, Lawler photographs Pablo Picassos infamous Demoiselles dAvignon but crops it to concentrate on the central female figure. The photograph is bounded again within a diamond-shaped frame. Lawlers photographs in Wedge represent the prominence of the frame in her practice. The frame of an artwork distingui shes what surrounds it: other artworks, the support wall, and the outer world. The larg er frame of the exhibition space, the media and the history of art contain the work, but also generate the work as art. Heuristically, the works of both Lawler and Levine continue the act of doubling in troduced earlier with Lawlers attention to her own installations. The artists doub le the paintings of Mondrian, and they replicate each other in their c hoice of Mondrian as th e subject of their collaboration. Levine stated the following about her own ar tistic practice, which can be extended to this joint effort. I wanted to make a picture which contradict ed itself. I wanted to put a picture on top of a picture so that there are times wh en both pictures disappear and other times when theyre both manifest; that vibration is basically what the works about for methat space in the middle where theres no picture, rather an emptiness, an oblivion.19 By doubling the artist Mondrian, Lawler and Levine make him manifest. They re-enunciate his name within the canon and force him into alliance with their own project. Yet they also challenge the spectator s relationship to his works, or more so, the relationship to copies of his wo rks. As a departure from Benjamins utopian belief in the 19 Molly Nesbit, Bright Light, Big City: The 0s Without Walls, Artforum (April 2003), 248.

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43 liberating quality of photographic reproductions Lawler and Levine do not necessarily celebrate the copy. Rather they present it as a vehicle of mediation. Situated within an image-saturated society, the copy is the circul ated image, the picture with which we have an intimacy. However this picture is also already emptied outby the original, the ready-formed dictionary, th e object external to the image, and ad infinitum. How does this relate to their collaborative title, A Picture Is No Substitute for Anything ? A picture cannot substitute the external object that it represents. Lawler and Levines reproductions of origi nal Mondrians do not replac e them, or even lessen their valuea value continually confirmed within a capitalist economy of pr ivate property. In turn, the same question applies to the origi nal Mondrians. They too do not substitute for anything. Despite their abstract characte r, the paintings do not supersede the idealism or the absolute they attempt to restore. Read another way, a picture is no substitute for anything unravels the fiction that one has acces s to anything to a real external to the image. A picture is just a picture, however it also serv es in a productive capacity, generating representations that mediate th e world for people, constructing a shared history, and connecting people to each other. A picture serves as an object of discourse. The word poignant, with its multiple de finitionspointed, sharp, focused, affecting and movingis integral to the description of Lawlers works, and one to which I will return again.20 The last two dimensions of the wordaffecting and moving express Lawler and Levines Wedge project. I would argue that Lawler and Levine reproduce 20 Crimp, Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp, unpaginated.

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44 Mondrian with critical affection, not adoles cent rebellion, and cl oak their address to images, copies, pictures, and reproductions with deep attachment. This collaborative project and Lawlers pr actice as a whole parallel Craig Owenss discussion of reduplication.21 Owens borrows from linguistics the concept of repetition and its production of signs. For instance, ra ther than calling a repeated syllablethe pa in the word papaan imitation, or a wild s ound, it forms a code and thus signifies. Owens argues for a corresponding notion in th e production of a photographic language. The repeated syllable becomes the dup licability of the photographic print: Photographs are but one link in a potentially endless chain of redupl ication; themselves duplicates (of both their objects and, in a sense, their negatives), they are also subject to further duplication, either through the procedures of printing or as objects of still other photographs.22 The spread in Wedge serves as a mise en abme for photographys endless multiplications just as the title A Picture Is No Substitute for Anything does for the practice of picture-maki ng in a general sense. Owens invokes Robert Smithsons images a nd written texts to debunk the classical relationship of object and re presentation. In The Monuments of Passaic (1967), Smithson describes the view of a bridge as an over-exposed picture, and he aligns it with photographing a photograph, and walking on an enormous photograph.23 For 21 Craig Owens, Photography en abyme , Beyond Recognition: Represen tation, Power, and Culture ed. S. Bryson, B. Kruger, L. Tillman, and J. Weinstock (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 16-30. The essay was first published in October 5 (Summer 1978), 73-88. 22 Ibid., 26. 23 Robert Smithson, The Monuments of Passaic, Artforum (December 1967). Also of interest to note is the participation of Robert Smithson in the group exhi bition Earth Art, which took place on the college campus of Cornell University, February 11-March 16, 1969. Lawler was a studen t at Cornell at the time, and aided in the installation of the exhibition. It would be fruitful to think about the influence, if any, on

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45 Smithson the photograph is not a substitute for the real out there. Instead, Owens writes, the real assumes the contingency trad itionally ascribed to the copy; the landscape appeared to him, not as Nature, but as a particular kind of heliotypy.24 This is interesting to thi nk about in relation to Lawle rs photographs, which I have already described as abyssal and manifest in form as mise en abme Smithson comments on the absence of a real, and the i mage-ability of the world around us. The sites that Lawler photographs can be describe d as also just this, a photograph waiting to be photographed. Lawler points to the coll ectors home as a space organized to be looked at, to be featured, and therefore furt her organized within her viewfinder. The same can be repeated about the museum, and the extended life it gathers through the circulation of installation shots. Similarl y, Lawler and McCollum in their collaboration strove to create the gallery space as a t hree-dimensional advertisement, a walk-in picture. Owenss endless reduplication, speci fically the excess repetition signified by the prefix re-, manifests itself in Lawlers works. Photographing the object as image, Lawler repeats this utterance through the metic ulous installation of the works, adding to the works signification. Furthermore, since La wlers works function as art, they too will be photographed, reproduced, and circulated, ad infinitum, thus fulfilling the action so fundamental to Lawlers practice. The word poignant, presented above, also stands in opposition to a certain dryness that could enfold La wlers work and its reception.25 Lawlers photographs resist Lawlers work of Smithsons notions of the site and nonsite, as well as the earth artists interest in art as a system and not the production of singular objects. 24 Owens, 27. 25 Crimp, Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp, unpaginated. Crimp prefaces the disc ussion of the word poi gnant with thes e words: Its true that the

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46 conceptual arts aesthetic of the dumb document, exemplified by the work of artists such as Ed Ruscha, Dan Graham, Robert Sm ithson, Joseph Kosuth, Christine Kozlov and Douglas Huebler.26 In contrast to conceptual arts snapshots taken with an instamatic camera, Lawlers photographs are formally composed and shot with a medium format camera. This adds a rich texture and vari ed aesthetic to her work absent from the amateur, anti-aesthetic style practiced by her contemporaries, Levine, Prince and Sherman. Lawlers photographs cannot be eval uated within these same terms. They are not anti-aesthetic, but actually quite beautiful Beauty returns neither to stabilize the image, nor throw the work into a retrograde discourse of beauty as the qualifier for art. In this case, beauty facilitate s the transformation of picture into precious art object. As I have argued, Lawlers work functions through successive transformations. With her camera, she returns the object to picture, en folding the object in its representation. The copy, though, adheres to the codes, not of the anti-aesthetic, but of art photography. Consciously imitating the codes of art photogr aphybeauty as its highest valueLawler unravels them as constructions and thus mani pulates them to transform, once again, the easiest things to say about your photographs are of a programmatic naturethat theyre about the works framing conditions, about the commodity structure of the art world and so forth. And this produces a certain dryness, a reduction of the work to its functio n as institutional critique. While these things may be true and accurate about your work, they dont capture something else thats crucial. Throughout this paper I am trying to uncover, point out, circumscribe this something else. 26 Melanie S. Mario, Dumb Documents: Uses of Photography in American Conceptual Art: 1959-1969, Dissertation, Cornell University, 2002. If Conceptu al photography was not pictorialit was artlessneither was it purely instrumentalit was not only a vehicle for the reproduction and dissemination of art but a form of art in itself. Nominating as their subject matter the trivial and insignificant, the least event, conveyed aptly by the flat-footed composition and careless techniques of snapshot photography, the Conceptual document, simply put, was confoundingly dumb in appearance and purpose. Renouncing virtually all marks of artistic craft and skill and foregrounding the values of the unaesthetic and the useless, these works cultivated a zero-degree style of facticity pushed to the point of banality, inaugurating a practice which, following Dougla s Huebler, I am calling dumb.

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47 image into a precious object.27 This object now is characterized by its multiplicity, its image-ability. Similar to Barthess ideas about myth, Lawler de-mythifies the art object with her viewfinder and then retu rns it to the system re-coded with new parameters, questions, and contradictions. Th e deconstruction of the precious object of art occurs through its re-present ation, its reduplication. The ob ject is de-nat uralized, and in the process the spectator becomes aware of her/his position. The precious object lures the viewer into the picture, but also st utters any easy positionality. With her photographic installations, she consistent ly draws a circle around her work by emphasizing the process of select ion within the frame and then re-affirming that selection in her meticulous presentations. Thus the view er cannot limit her/his reading of the work to the single print but rather is prompted to recognize the meaning generated by the relationships of the works to each other a nd through their presentation. In this way, Lawler relies on an embodied viewer in th e heuristic process. Looking and knowing are not denied or completely jettisoned. Lawler recognizes her work as a visual practice, albeit one that requires a body in movement In An Arrangement of Pictures the viewer moves through the hierarchical orde rs described abovefrom original to copyand within hierarchiesobject and supp lement. In Presentation and Display the spectator walks into a tableau. Movement governs the viewers interpretation of the work, an echo of the objects fluidity through borderless contexts and dissolvable walls. But who is this body? With the Swan Lake invitations Lawler bega n to investigate the class status of art patrons. In the next chapter I explore the gendered and sexed subject 27 This discussion of art photography is indebted to Abigail Solomon-Godeaus text on art photography in Photography After Art Photography, Art After Modernism 75-85. Additionally her discussion of James Wellings photographic work influenced my readings of Lawler, Playing in the Field of the Image, Photography at the Dock 86-102.

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48 constituted in and through re presentations of art and Lawl ers stake in exposing art historys patriarchal traditions The elision of looking and reading, seeing and knowing, is de-stabilized, and as a re sult these unconscious practices become conscious.

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49 CHAPTER 4 THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN EMBODIED SUBJECT But Lawler can also be differentiated fr om these artists, for rather than situate institutional power in a centralized buildi ng (such as a museum) or a powerful elite which can be named, she locates it inste ad in a systemized se t of presentational procedures which name, situate, centralize. Andrea Fraser1 Sexuality in the Field of Vision In 1984, Kate Linker and Jane Weinstoc k curated an exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art entitled Differe nce: On Representation and Sexuality. The exhibition tapped into the contemporary inte rest, shared by art historians, art makers, and cultural theorists, in psychoanalysis and its implications for re presentation. Jacques Lacans formulations of sexual difference as dependent on the visual field were of primary concern. The curators selected work s of art that engaged with the terrain triangulated by the terms sexua lity, meaning, and language.2 An essay by Jacqueline Rose, who had already played a crucial ro le in providing a methodology for reading art and film through the lens of psychoana lysis, was featured in the catalogue.3 Roses essay employs Sigmund Freud's text on Leonardo da Vinci as a point of departure for art historical studies of sexual difference. She begins with Freuds complaints about a 1 Fraser, 124. 2 Kate Linker, Forward, D ifference: On Representation and Sexuality exhibition catalogue, (New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984), 5. 3 The two most influential publications by Rose are Feminine Sexuality. Jacques Lacan and the ecole freudienne (1982), co-authored with Juliet Mitchell, and Sexuality in the Field of Vision (1986). The title of the latter book and the essay written for the Dif ference exhibition share the same title. Jacqueline Rose, Sexuality in the Field of Vision, Difference: On Representation and Sexuality 31-33, reprinted in Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London: Verso, 1986), 225-233. My citations are from the reprint.

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50 particular drawing, purportedly by Leonardo (o nly part of which can be attributed to him), of a man and woman copulating. Ro se expands on a footnote by Freud that ascribes the failure of the drawing to the problem of sexuality and representation, using it as an introduction to her ow n thoughts about the drawing: T he uncertain sexual identity muddles the plane of the image so that th e spectator does not know where she or he stands in relationship to the picture. A confus ion at the level of sexuality brings with it a disturbance of the visual field.4 Rose situates sexual differen ce not in what is seen, but in the subjectivity of the viewer, in the rela tionship between what is looked at and the developing sexual knowledge of the child.5 The moment when the boy and girl discover difference through the visual discovery of each others biological make-up epitomizes this model. According to Rose, art represents the pr ocess of looking and the delayed act of becoming inherent to psychoanalytic notions of sexual difference. Insofar as it highlights moments of disturbed visual representation, art can unhinge the dialogic relationship of looking and knowing. Rose argues that the unconscious and its accompanying desires disrupt individual identit y. Desire leads to fantasy, which often involves a staging, or a narr ative moment, such as when the boy and girl discover the distinctiveness of each others genitals. What emerges from this moment is a materialization in the visual field and its s ubsequent fracture. Th e fantasy reveals the individuals a priori conception, the stabiliz ation of her/his own identity. Art draws on these fantasies and critically re-circulates them. As such, they are established as sites of 4 Ibid., 226. 5 Ibid., 227.

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51 revision of the un/fixed nature of sexuality. Crucial to the connection Rose establishes between psychoanalysis and art production is this repetition of the fantasy or staged event: The encounter between psychoanaly sis and artistic pr actice is therefore staged but only insofar as that staging has already taken place It is an encounter which draws its strength from that repetition, working lik e a memory trace of something we have been through before.6 Rose thus diverts attention away from questions of originality or authenticity within the context of art, direc ting it instead to the way art circulates in an already formed system. But she shows that some times art circulates in that system in an unseen or buried manner. This is especia lly true with repetition: repetition as insistence, that is, as the constant pre ssure of something hidden but not forgotten.7 This idea of repetition as insistence l eads Rose to focus on the prominence that Lacans texts place on language, and on the idea of meaning as constructed from the interconnectedness of language, ra ther than from discrete un its. The field of language produces meaning through the relationship of si gns: its truth belongs to that movement and not to some prior refere nce existing outside its domain.8 Rose emphasizes what she sees as the intricate relationship between langua ge and sexual difference. Both are shown to exercise power through their ability to c ontrol and generate norma tive behavior. They are also posited as sharing the ability to shift and undo all psychic and ideological practices. Rose criticizes liter ary or artistic prac tices that adopt psychoanalytic theory but do not account for the centrality of sexuality. She targets the modernist discourse of 6 Ibid., 228. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid.

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52 purity, as well as postmodernisms employment of allegory. In lieu of these texts, she insists on an artistic practice th at accounts for both what is seen and the visual field in which the object is seenthe chain that constructs meaning. Solomon-Godeau, in Reconstructing Documentary (1986), argue s that the problem confronting any genuinely radical cultural pr oduction is not simply a matter of transforming existing forms through the insertion of some new politic ized content or subjec t matter, but rather to intervene on the level of the forms themselv es, to disrupt what the forms put in place.9 Indeed, art informed by feminism demands mo re than an ideological scrutiny of the image and what its signifier conveys. It demands an in terrogation of how the artwork creates meaning within a field of visi on divided by sexuality, as well as how it contributes to the continual fixing and unfixing of sexual identity. The Institutional and the Everyday The central themes articulated in Crai g Owenss The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism (1983) overlap with Roses text in many ways.10 Owens calls for a re-view of feminism and postmode rnism, and for an account of the ways in which the parallel critiques of patriarc hy and representation mounted by these two formations intersect and enhance each other. At the same time, he refuses to collapse feminism and postmodernism, challenging the disavowal of sexuality in both modernism and postmodernism. The Discourse of Ot hers openly critici zes art critics and philosophers who turn a bli nd eye to gender in their writings. Owens singles out Benjamin H. D. Buchlohs Allegorical Procedures: Appropria tion and Montage in 9 Solomon-Godeau, Reconstructing Documentary (1986), Photography at the Dock 189. 10 Craig Owens, The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism, The Anti-Aesthetic 57-77.

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53 Contemporary Art (1982), which chronicles the allegorical trope within contemporary art practice and identifies it as an offspring of the Dada movement.11 Whereas Buchloh argues that contemporary feminist artists ar e the inheritors of this lineage, Owens opposes this distinctly male genealogy and criticizes the absen ce of any mention of gender. Owens insists that th e artworks be read through the filter of sexual difference, and not just through the political ideology of mass culture. Parallel to Roses thesis, Owens throws into crisis Buchlohs consistent but unconscious use of words aligned with vision, such as transparent, observable, and unveil, and asks the important question: But what does it mean to claim that these artists render the invisible visibl e, especially in a culture in which visibility is always on the side of the male, invisibility on the side of the female?12 This question challenges vision, not just as an index of sexual difference, but also as an indicator of mastery and consequently masculinity. There is a pervas ive tension in Lawlers work that tightens and pulls around the problematic of vision and presents objects as administrators of patriarchal values. Lawlers artistic practi ce as a whole remains unstable. She challenges the viewers of her work, placing them in the position of critical read er through her refusal of traditional materialization, displacement of the visual ob jects, and problematization of visual pleasure in art. But before I explore th is dimension of Lawlers work let us look more closely at Buchlohs evaluation of Lawlers place in art history. In Allegorical Procedures Buchloh employs Lawlers exhibition at Artists Space from 1978 as a linch-pin between a largely male artworld and the in creased presence of 11 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art, Artforum (September 1982), 43-56. 12 Owens, 72.

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54 female artists.13 Buchloh locates Lawler as follo wing or continuing the situational esthetics of Michael Asher, Marcel Br oodthaers, Daniel Buren, Dan Graham, Hans Haacke, and Lawrence Weiner. In the mid-si xties and early seventies, according to Buchloh, these artists explored the institutional framework problematized by the Duchampian readymade, and placed the very structure of the object under scrutiny. But Buchloh also associates Lawl er with a group of artists that sought to probe the ideological discourses outside of that framew ork [the institutions of Modernism]...where the languages of television, advertising, and photography, and th e ideology of everyday life, were subjected to formal and linguistic operations.14 Along with Lawler, this group included Dara Birnbaum, Jenny Holzer, Barb ara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, and Martha Rosler. The placement of Lawlers work between, and yet among, these diverse groups of artists resonates to this da y, as it continues to occupy bot h institutional and everyday sites. Lawler mobilizes both the structures of art and the media to explore how art is read and how this reading contributes to art s value. At the same time there are differences between her practice and the prac tices of those with whom she is grouped. Significantly, Lawlers engagement with the co nstruction of the subjec t in art, a gendered and sexed subject, is missing from the work of the male artists that immediately precede her. Yet Lawlers work is also distinct from that of contemporary female artists insofar as it appropriates the stra tegies of the media while not completely appropriating its look. 13 Buchloh, 48. To be fair, Buchloh pairs the Lawler exhibition with Michael Ashers 1979 exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago as the prefiguration of contem porary allegorical investigations, but only goes on to describe the Lawler exhibition. 14 Ibid., 48.

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55 Buchloh cites a group exhibition in 1978 in which Lawler took part (Figure 12). The exhibition, staged at Artists Space, also featured the work of Adrian Piper, Cindy Sherman and Christopher DArcangelo. Lawl er installed a site-s pecific piece in the gallery and served as the graphic designer for the exhibition. He r designs included the cover of the catalogue and an advertising poster. Fo r the installation, Lawler appropriated a painting of a racehorse bo rrowed from the New York Aqueduct Race Track. The painting, made in 1824, was hung on a wall that contained both windows and a door into the neighboring room. Yet, c ontrary to common exhibition practice, the painting was positioned over the windows, rather than on the white wall. Two theatrical spotlights were placed above the canvas. The lights did not simply present the pictorial object; instead, one was directed at the viewer while the other highlighted the room. The viewers ability to see the painting was thus obstructed. At the same time, the spotlight cast shadows of the gallery spac e and of the visitors to the exhibition onto the faade of the building across the street. As such, Lawl ers installation was fully self-reflexive, employing the central elements of the exhibiti on as the subject of the work. Using lights as the main focus of the installation, Lawler features the supplementary elements of an exhibition as the exhibition itself. To further situate Lawlers practice within its history, and draw contrasts, it is beneficial to compare this installation with a similar exhibition by Daniel Buren, Within and Beyond the Frame, staged at the J ohn Weber Gallery in New York in 1973.15 Both installations punctuate the exhi bition space with the exterior space of the street, while also, in effect, presenting the f rame of the gallery. Constructed in situ Burens 15 I relied on Guy Lelongs description of Burens exhi bition to draw comparisons to Lawlers work. Guy Lelong, Daniel Buren trans. David Radzinowicz (Paris, France: Flammarion, 2002), 51-61.

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56 exhibition featured nineteen st riped black and white pieces of fabric that hung both inside and outside the gallery space. The fabric was stretched along a cable with nine pieces in the interior of the gallery, ni ne on the exterior stretching acr oss the street, and one piece located centrally between the inside and outsi de. In its construction, Buren threw into question the symbolic frame of the gallery, wh ile also emphasizing the gallerys material space. Buren designed the fabric pieces to ec ho elements of the gallery, such as the size of the windows, the space between the windows and the depth of the room. Additionally, the arrangement re-affirmed the compleme ntary non-space outside the gallery. The expanse of the street determined the number of fabric pieces in the show. Utilizing his signature elements of prefab ricated striped cloths and the actual body of the site, Buren highlighted the depende nt relationship between the internal and external space of the art institution. In addition, his wo rk served to advertise both the individual exhibition and the larger gallery space, which lacked any nominative street sign. Burens art in the seventie s called attention to the role of the museum/gallery as the frame empowering art. This move deflect ed significance away from the autonomous object of art to which modernism gave primary value. In its place, the space of exhibition is highlighted and recognized as a determin ant of arts aesthetic, economic and mystical status.16 In Within and Beyond the Frame the spect ator is prompted to reflect on the relationship of the work to the architectural and institutional surround rather than isolate, or contemplate, the work of art separately from its support. Furthermore, the sanctity of the interior functions to pr eserve and protect the art object which is in striking contrast to the same object located outsi de and left to be weathered by the natural elements. 16 Daniel Buren, The Function of the Museum, 5 Texts (New York: The Jack We ber Gallery, 1973), 5861.

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57 Lawlers installation from 1978 plays with similar notions of frames interior/exteriorand also diminishes the visu al impact of the actual object. Not only the location but also the very make -up of the work of art is th rown into question. The work might be located in the appropriated painting, or it might be made up of the theatrical light arrangement.17 Pushing beyond Burens emphasis on the architectural space of the museum/gallery as a material and symbolic container, Lawler highlights the spectators role as yet another site of power by literally inscribing the body of the spectator into the work in the form of shadows. But Lawlers emphasis on the corporeal as a contrast to the disembodiment of modernism still genera tes a non-gendered and non-sexed body. Throughout her work, whether it be in th e medium of photography, the practice of installations, or the produc tion of layout and graphic design, Lawler addresses the subjective in the production a nd reception of art. She marks the gendered and sexed subject, while simultaneously distancing hers elf from and critiquing the masculine cult of the artist-creator as Romantic hero, exemplif ied by contemporary figures such as Joseph Beuys and Julian Schnabel. But Lawler also se parates her work from that of other artists who practice institutional critique. Rathe r than situate institutional power in a centralized building (such as a museum) or a powerful elite which can be named, Andrea Fraser has written about her work, Lawler locates it in stead in a systematized set of presentational procedures wh ich name, situate, centralize.18 Indeed, Lawler has consistently refused to allow her work to be reduced to simplified, non-ambiguous 17 Foster, in Subversive Signs, Recodings 105, suggests that Lawlers use of the racehorse painting might be intended to invoke the idea of galleries as stabl es: Are not art world and racetrack alike based on a closed system of training and grooming, of handicapping and betting, of investment, competition and auction? After all we do call galleries stables. 18 Fraser, 124.

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58 meanings. She has done this by ensuring that the mobility of her artwork, whether original or copy, functio ns like a trace. Privilege of the Senses For her first solo exhibition A Movie W ill Be Shown Without the Picture at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, Californ ia, in 1979, Lawler screened the film The Misfits (1961). Her interest in th is film came primarily from the emotional aura that was caused by the death of the three main act orsMarilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and Montgomery Cliftin the years following the completion of the film. Lawler continued this project in New York throughout the year s, each time showing a different film.19 Lawler has discussed this wo rk with Douglas Crimp: I was interested in what its like being part of an audience for something, whether youre alone looking at a book, in a gallery surrounded by other people looking at the same picture as you, or in that partic ularly passive situation of sitting in the dark, eyes glued to the screen, allowing your self to laugh more when others do. It was important to me that everything proceed s normally, but there would be a single difference, which was announced: A movi e will be shown without the picture. You werent told what the movie was.20 Lawler pursues the experience of art outside the body of the artist, in this case, the experience of being part of an audience. Au thority is displaced from the artist to the audience in a Barthesian manner. As a re sult, the viewer relates foremost to the experience of a group. But it is an experi ence marked by a visuality that has been inexplicably removed. The reading of this exhibition is multifarious, dependent not on the singularity of the artist but on that of each person in the audience. Lawler disrupts the film-going experience in a Brechtian manner to confront the spectator with her/his 19 Other films shown included The Hustler and What's Opera, Doc? 20 Crimp, Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp, unpaginated.

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59 dependence on the mastery of vision when atte ndant to film-going, and by extension an art exhibition. Taking Jean-Luc Godards prac tice of rupturing the synchronization of the visual image with the soundtr ack to one of its logical c onclusions, Lawler completely jettisons the visual image. The spectator is now offered the experi ence of the film only through the aural track. As such, Lawler ch allenges the normative dialogic relationship between seeing and knowing by turning the vie wer into the listener. Here the influence of writers such as Luce Irigaray on Lawlers artistic practice is evident.21 Irigarays writings have sought to reinscribe the feminin e into the phallo centric model of psychoanalysis. The feminine has taken the form of the maternal in many instances of her work, with the female body functioning as metaphor. Relevant to Lawlers art practice is Irigarays commentary on the re lationship between the visual and the masculine: Investment in the look is not privileged in women as in men. More than other senses, the eye objectifies and masters. It sets at a distan ce, and maintains a distance. In our culture the predominance of the look over smell, taste, touch, and hearing has brought about an impoverishment of bodily relations. The moment the look dominates, the body loses its materiality.22 In Lawlers A Movie Will Be Shown Wit hout the Picture, the viewer sits in a dark theater marked by the absence of any overdetermining fixed line of vision. She or he is left only to listen and to feel the discomfort that results from that absence. Hence the viewer becomes doubly aware of ot her bodies besides her/his own, as the 21 Sherrie Levine, a peer and collaborator of Lawler, has commented on the influence of continental theory in Sherrie Levine talks to Howard Singerman, 191. After the Pictures show in 1977, I began reading Continental theory, which the writers I knew were reading. I was never particularly interested in analytic philosophy, but this stuff really spoke to me, especially the psychoanalytic theory. The new feminists wanted to trouble the idea of the primacy of the visu al over the other senses. They were interested in pleasure and humor. Time and space do not allow me to examine Lawlers wo rk through her use of humor as a strategy to dislocate the spectator, esp ecially in the texts accompanying her photographs. 22 Luce Irigaray quoted in Owens, The Discourse of Others, 70.

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60 impoverishment of bodily relations to which Irigaray refers is accentuated. Yet with the screening of The Misfits the first of the films featured in A Movie Will Be Shown, a number of factors have to be considered. First, The Misfits was a movie that was already made, already seen, and thus alrea dy encoded with its own historya history encompassing not only the films stars but al so its screenwriter, Arthur Miller. The viewer brings to a cult film such as The Misfits an array of associations, producing an experience of sameness with differencean ex perience similar to what Jacqueline Rose described above as an encounter which draws its strength from that repetition, working like a memory trace of something we have b een through before. A shadow of images materializes through the experien ce of watching something not there but already seen. Owens reads Lawlers choice of The Misfits through the body of Marilyn Monroe. The latter functions as an ar chetypal site of male desire and therefore its absencea movie will be shown without the pictureser ves to disavow pleasure: a pleasure that has been linked with the masculin e perversions voyeurism and scopophilia.24 Lawler displaces the scopic object of Marilyn Monroe, or what La ura Mulvey has described as the to-be-looked-at-ness of women.25 On the other hand, Monroe also became famous through the use of her voice. Her contrived, soft, uncertain, breathy voice further added to her status as the ar chetypal image of feminine desirability. Though Lawler destroyed the pleasure accorded the scopi c image, another pleasure emerges from 24 Owens, 73. 25 Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Art After Modernism 361-373. Reprinted from Screen 16, no. 3 (Autumn 1975). It is interesting to note that Lawler, who worked as photo editor for Art After Modernism (along with Wallis), paired the first page of Mulveys essay with a still of Marilyn Monroe from How to Marry a Millionaire

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61 Monroes voice, complicating the terms image, pleasure, and desire as derived singularly from vision. Amelia Jones, in Postfeminism, Feminist Pleasures, and Embodied Theories of Art(1993), replies directly to Mulveys renowned essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975).26 Jones criticizes Mulveys theorizati on of pleasure as manifested in the objectification of woman in na rrative cinema and the desire for pleasures destruction through the analysis, or problem atization, of woman as scopic object. In place of this view, Jones responds with a theorization of an embodied subject, which does not separate embodied pleasure from so-called theory.27 Joness text is useful for two reasons. First, it addresses the type of embodiment engage d by Lawler in A Movie Will be Shown Without a Picture through the complication of pleasure derived from Marilyn Monroes voice, not only her spectral image. S econd, Jones accuses Mulvey of continuing to circulate within a masculine modernist discours e that is proscriptive of pleasure at the expense of the female subject. In overlooking the question of female pleasure, critical texts that privilege so-called postfeminist art for its refusal of the desiring male gaze, have maintained both late modernisms gene ral refusal of pleasure and the Mulveyan focus on male pleasure (and its prohibitio n) at the expense of accounting for the possibility of desiring female viewers and artists.28 Joness arguments provide another feminist lens through which to read Lawlers works, especially since her works do not focus on images of women. Such a lens accen tuates the way that Lawler explores the 26 Amelia Jones, Postfeminism, Feminist Pleasures, and Embodied Theories of Art, The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology ed. Donald Preziosi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 383-395. 27 Jones, 393. 28 Jones, 394.

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62 construction of the subject, not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of sexuality, by evoking the desired object. The Desiring Subject Desire is not a word often used in review s or essays about Lawlers work, neither in relation to the luxurious obj ects or settings shown in th e collectors home nor in the provocative artworks captured in her photographs. For instance in the review of Lawlers 1985 exhibition Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What Are We Going to Say? at Metro Pict ures, Jeanne Silverthorne doe s not reference the erotic nature of the nude statues incl uded in the sl ide presentation.29 Although she comments on the domination inferred by the photographs of the classical scul ptures, Silverthorne does not apply a feminist analysis to th e exhibition. Andrea Fraser discusses the exhibition in terms of Lawlers ability to evade her prescrib ed role as artist, a lasting identity which seems to transcend ...the arbi trary exchange and circ ulation of esthetic signs, but she misses the potential for a different kind of reading.30 Slides by Night featured a slide presentation available for viewing at night through the window of the closed gallery. Lawler alternated slides of fruits, baseballs and bells with her own photographs of art objec ts in an evocation of the slot machine.31 When the slot machine signs matched up fo r a jackpot, a photogr aph of a classical sculpture would be shown as the payoff. Lawler took the photogra phs at a plaster-cast museum where copies of classical sculptures were manufactured. Silverthorne rightly 29 Jeanne Silverthorne, Louise Lawler, Artforum (April 1985), 89. 30 Fraser, 128. 31 Silverthorne, 89. Images of revolving fruit-as in a slot machine-capture the gamblers fever of art speculation and form the works only reference to money, albeit indirectly.

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63 associates the presentation of the exhib ition with window-shopping. As I have argued, Lawler often employs this tactic in her pres entation of art objects as if for sale, or contained within an advertisement. This a pproach engages the objec t in a discussion of the commodification of art, but also in the strategies of desi re necessary to the circulation of objects within the market. The installation recalls yet another site the peep show. When a copy of the Barberini Faun ( Objects 1984) pops up as the payoff, Lawler involves the viewer, not assumed to be a male heterosexual viewer in an art peep show underscored by the closed gallery and voyeuristic night viewing (Figure 13). Legs splayed open, genitals exposed, the Hellenistic sculpt ure resists a stabilization of sexuality expressed in the relationship, established by Ro se, between what is seen and the sexual knowledge of the seer. What does it mean to be a man looking at this work? How does the work constitute the female gaze and her pleasure? How does th is work assert a viewing subject? Must the viewer remain within a heterosexua l and masculine system of vision, which proscriptively constructs a heterosexual fe male subject and a homosexual male subject? Crimp, in the introduction to On the Museums Ruins recalls his earlier writings on the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe from 198 2, which at the time he believed to be a false appropriation of style.32 In retrospect, Crimp real izes that Mapplethorpes photographs in effect challe nge sexual difference by tr oubling the vi ewing male subject: 32 Crimp, Photographs at the End of Modernism, On the Museums Ruins 2-31. The essay in which he discussed Mapplethorpe is Appropriating Appropriation, Image Scavengers: Photography (Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, 1982). Reprinted in On the Museums Ruins 126-137.

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64 What is occluded by the instit utions emphasis on the subject behind representation is more than the historical, institutional structures that fabricate the creating subject; what is also, crucially, occluded is the gendered, sexually oriented, and otherwise designated subject effected by, constituted in representation through, those structures.33 As photo editor for Crimps book, Lawler chose the Barberini Faun along with other photographs/slides from Slides by Night to accompany the essays. This group of photographs features duplicates of classical male sculptures, of ten in disrepair, broken or packaged (a play on castration?). In one instance an unidentifie d photograph depicts two plaster-cast statues holding what appear to be phallic stand-ins (Figur e 14). In the copy of Donatellos David the figure grasps the top of his now broken sword, which bulges like a male penis. Another phot ograph represents a male nude statue, similar to the great dying warrior of Greek art, unusually placed faci ng an air vent (Figure 15). Lawler joins the photograph with the text: Did you see your parent of the opposite sex naked? A chance occurrence or was there no effort to a void being nude in your presence? Lawler utilizes the text to further disrupt what th e spectator sees. The spectator becomes an active reader, a participant in the work through the montage of visual image and text and the use of a shifter (you). The combined pict ure and text reposition the viewer before a traditionally classical statue. As Lawler puts it: Im alluding to things that make you comfortable and uncomfortable. Somethi ng is what you expect, but then not quite, so where do I leave you?34 These photographs, both from On the Museums Ruins and Slides by Night, engage with the construction of the spect ators sexuality and gender effected by, 33 Ibid., 25. 34 Crimp, Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp, unpaginated.

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65 constituted in representation, while also maki ng visible the invisible, or the sublimated narrative of sexuality in artistic discourses Many of the sculptures represented are Greco-Roman in origin, including copies of Augustus of Primaporta and Laocon Art historians often characterize Greek and Roman art as highly rational and value it for its order and scientific rendering of the human anatomy. The Greco-Roman artist conformed the body to a mathematically derived system in search of an ideal. It was a controlled body. The refusal of pleasure is deployed as a weapon of control against the chaotic and unpredictable pleasures of the erotically engaged body.35 The practice of art history, or at least traditi onal, canonically-ta ught art history, acts upon the body in a similar way. Jones employs the writings of Pierre Bourdieu to further extend this argument: As sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has writte n of the psychic motivations encouraging this refusal of pleasure in discourses of h igh culture, the obj ect which insists on being enjoyed...neutralizes both ethical re sistance and aesthetic neutralization; it annihilates the distancing power of suspe nding immediate, animal attachment to the sensible and refusing submission to the pur e affect...[Only] pure pleasure-ascetic, empty pleasure which implies the renunciati on of pleasure-...i s predisposed to become a symbol of moral excellence a nd the work of art a test of ethical superiority.36 What Is the Institution? In the essay, Sexual Difference: Both Sides of the Camera, Solomon-Godeau recognizes the art museum as a phallocen tric institution, and uses a photograph by Lawler, Statue Before Painting, Perseus with the Head of Medusa Canova 1982 (Figure 35 Jones, 393. 36 Pierre Bourdieu quoted in Jones, 393 taken from Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, Massachuse tts: Harvard University Press, 1984), 489, 490, 491.

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66 16), to exemplify this point.37 Interestingly, she is one of the few writers, along with the critic/curator Kate Linker, to link Lawlers work with sexualit y. Lawlers photograph first appeared in October magazine in 1983, within a portfolio of her photographs, gathered under the title An Arrangement of Pictures. The photograph represents the grand staircase in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City that leads to the galleries containing Paintings, visible in the background. A classical statue of Perseus made by the Neo-Classical artist Antonio Ca nova occupies the foreground of the work. The content and formal composition overlap in the photograph to disclose the hidden hierarchies of museums. Perseus, a myt hological hero, killed Medusa by avoiding her fatal gaze. The story of Medusa serves as a common trope in psychoanalysis for castration and fetishism. In th is regard, it is of interest that Perseus killed Medusa by using his shield as a mirror device, rather than looking di rectly at her. The built-in references to the power of the gaze, and the l ack that results from castration, return us to the moment when the boy and girl discove r their differenceth e narrative moment deployed by Rose. The formal cropping of th e photographs frame also reinforces this reading. Perseus stands to the right of the fram e, cropped at the pelvis so that all that is visible are his legs, genitals, and the hand gripping the mighty sword that decapitated Medusa. Beyond the statue, and to the left, is a beautiful long vi ew of the arched entrance to the painting gallery, accentuated by the Greco-Roman Corinthian columns that flank the grand staircase. Both the title, Statue Before Painting, Perseus with the 37 Solomon-Godeau, Sexual Differen ce: Both Sides of the Camera, Photography at the Dock 256-280. This essay accompanies an exhibition of the same name curated by Solomon-Godeau in 1987. The photograph made by Lawler was included in the exhibition.

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67 Head of Medusa Canova and the represented installati on implicate the hierarchy of painting and sculpture, as well of man and woman.38 In controlling the photographic cropwhat the viewer will seeshe also gives prominence to the patriarchal values enshrined in the predominantly all-male preserve of the art museum. Finally, in giving prominence to Perseuss sex organ and sword, guardian of a painting collection that in many respects incarnates the masterful gaze of the male subject, Lawl er gives prominence to the hidden lines between phallus, fetish and painting.39 Museum installations dialectically repre ss the sexual discourse s surrounding art and generate the patriarchal values that sustain the institution and the social relations between the sexes. In the photograph Sappho and Patriarch 1984 (Figure 17), Lawler sets her viewfinder on two sculptures within an exhibi tion space. A bust of a male figure sits in the background, stern and authoritative. A fe male figure stands in the foreground; she gazes down with her garment sloping dejectedly off her shoulder. She holds a lyre and garland. Though Sappho is given promin ence in the framethe foregroundshe remains shadowed, literally and figuratively, by the male bust. The male bust is well lit and clearly visible, while Sa ppho lingers in partial obscurity. Lawlers caption adds another dimension to the image: Is it the wor k, the location, or the st ereotype that is the institution? With this text Lawler questi ons the meaning of the word institution, in this case, the art museum. Is an instituti on marked only by its physical place, by what it houses, or is an institution its discourses? Evoking the epigraph by Fraser, is an institution a namethe Metropoli tan Museum of Artsituated in a particular building in 38 Solomon-Godeau credits Rosalyn Deutsche with this point in Sexual Difference: Both Sides of the Camera, 280. As Rosalyn Deutsche has pointed ou t, both the title and the museum architecture Lawler has pictured not only implicate the current heroization of painting, but conjure a shade of another hierarchizationstatue before painting, as in ladies before gentlemen. 39 Ibid., 280.

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68 a distinct location, centralized ar ound the collection of art? Or is it a systematized set of presentational proceduresthe way the art is organized, classified, made to appear naturalthus sustaining, and continually en gendering patriarchal va lues? The caption, with its question form, opens a space for the viewer: Is it the work, the location, or the stereotype that is the inst itution? The question is neither didactic nor conclusive. Lawlers question prompts the viewer to assume the roles of both a reader and a subject. The reader must recognize the photograph not as a mirror image, but as a critical texta text that simultaneously acts upon the viewer. The reader seeks out the signification within the frame while also situating herself within the same exhibition/display systemlooki ng at Lawlers photographs within a museum, gallery, journal, or art book. The work t hus acts as a type of interventi on into the site of art. The art institution subjects the viewer but also constructs her. In this way, Lawlers art attempts to generate a more critically awar e art viewer, as well as a subject who is gendered and sexed.

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69 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION Artists in the late 1960S, 70S and 80s practiced what came to be called institutional critique. They took up the self-critical projec t of modernism and applied it to the institution of art in an attempt to dec onstruct the various discourses that name art. Louise Lawler produces art that uses the institution of art as both target and weapon. Her photographs and presentational procedures ai m to index the discourses that construct meaning and value in art. Her rigorous ex amination of the art object complements her documentation of the museum/gallery as a multivalent node of power, the rise of the conspicuous collector, and the viewer-subject construc ted in and through visual representations. Lawlers works point to th e institution of art not just as a material construction but also as an ideological mech anism, which operates through the circulation of vital supplementary materials and presentati onal positions. Lawler does not target one medium, but rather the whole institution of ar t, utilizing whatever medium, material, or object, including photographs, matchbooks, and inv itations, to interven e directly in the particular site of exhibition, bot h material and discursive. In this thesis I have situated the early work of Lawler within the art historical context of institutional critique and its relationship to modernism as defined by the writings of art critic Clement Greenberg. I examined Lawlers artistic strategies, specifically her attention to the power of pr esentation and display as instruments in the definition and production of meaning and value for the artwork and viewer. And lastly, I imposed a feminist reading on the work. I theorized the construction of the viewer-

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70 subject through questions of desire and sexuality, which ultimately are employed by the status quo proscriptively for its own prom otion and maintenance. The writings of Michel Foucault on the dynamics of power inflect my read ings of Lawlers practice throughout my thesis. In his texts, Foucau lt argues for the depl oyment of power as discursive with a net-like organization. Rath er than power enacted in human relations, Lawler interrogates the manipulation of the art object in the local co ntext of the artworld. Using her camera to re-present works of art in exhibition spaces, both public and private, Lawler positions the space and the apparatus of display as the frame overdetermining the viewers interp retation of the art. She disp laces herself as artist in order to underscore the marginal systems th at actively shape the discourses of art. Lawlers art allows the viewer to consider the ways in wh ich art is presented, housed and sold in an attempt to unsettle her/his perceptions and ideas of art. As a result, the project of art is activated as a th oroughly critical practice of production and interpretation.

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Figure 1. Louise Lawler, An Arrangement of Pictures, Metro Pi ctures Gallery, New York, 1982

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72 Figure 2. Louise Lawler, Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber, Inc. 1982, cibachrome

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73 Figure 3. Louise Lawler, Arranged by Mera and Donald Rubell 1982, cibachrome

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74 Figure 4. Louise Lawler, Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. And Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Connecticut 1984, cibachrome

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75 Figure 5. Louise Lawler, Arranged by Claire Vincent at the Metropolita n Museum of Art, New York City 1982, cibachrome

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76 Figure 6. Louise Lawler, (Allan McCollum and Other Artists) Lemon 1981, cibachrome Figure 7. Louise Lawler, (Holzer, Nadin and Other Artists) Baby Blue 1981, cibachrome

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77 Figure 8. Louise Lawler, (Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black 1982, cibachrome Figure 9. Louise Lawler, (Jenny Holzer and Other Artists) Kelly Green 1982, cibachrome

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78 Figure 10. Louise Lawler, (Andy Warhol and Other Artists) Tulip 1982, cibachrome

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79 Figure 11. Louise Lawler a nd Allan McCollum For Presen tation and Display: Ideal Settings, Diane Brown Gallery, New York City, 1984

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80 Figure 12. Louise Lawler, Group Exhibition, Artists Sp ace, New York City, 1978

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81 Figure 13. Louise Lawler, Objects Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What Are We Going to Say? , Metro Pictures Gallery, New York City, 1985

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82 Figure 14. Louise Lawler, Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What Are We Going to Say?, Metro Pi ctures Gallery, New York City, 1985

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83 Figure 15. Louise Lawler, Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What Are We Going to Say?, Metro Pi ctures Gallery, New York City, 1985

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84 Figure 16. Louise Lawler, Statue Before Painting, Perse us with the Head of Medusa, Canova 1982, cibachrome

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85 Figure 17. Louise Lawler, Sappho and Patriarch 1984, cibachrome

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86 LIST OF REFERENCES Asher, Michael. Writings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979 ed. Benjamin H.D. Buchloh. Halifax, Nova Scotia: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1983. Ault, Julie. Alternative Art New York, 1965-1985 New York: The Drawing Center and Minneapolis, Minnesota: Universi ty of Minnesota Press, 2002. Barthes, Roland. Image, Music, Text ed. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. Baudrillard, Jean. For a Critique of the Polit ical Economy of the Sign trans. Charles Levin. St. Louis, Missouri: Telos Press Ltd., 1981. Bender, Marylin. Sothebys and a Few Big Banks Are Lending Money on Art as Never Before. But Theres a Risk in Using Calder as Collateral. The New York Times (February 3, 1985), 1, 26. Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1984. Buchloh, Benjamin H.D. Allegorical Pr ocedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art, Artforum (September 1982), 43-56. ________. Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975 Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2000. Buren, Daniel. 5 Texts New York: The Jack Weber Gallery, 1973. Buskirk, Martha. Interviews with Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler, and Fred Wilson, October 70 (Fall 1994), 104-08. Cameron, Dan. Four Installations: Francesc To rres, Mierle Ukeles, Louise Lawler/Allan McCollum and Todt, Art Magazine (December 1984), 66-70. Crimp, Douglas. On the Museums Ruins with photographs by Louise Lawler. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2000. ________. Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An Interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp, Louise Lawler: An Arrangement of Pictures New York: Assouline, 2000.

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87 De Coppet, Laura and Alan Jones. The Art Dealers New York: Charles N. Potter, Inc./Publishers, 1984. Difference: On Representation and Sexuality exhibition catalogue, curators, Kate Linker and Jane Weinstock. New York: The Ne w Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984. Foster, Hal, ed. Dia Art Foundation Discussions in Contemporary Culture, Number One Seattle, Washington: Bay Press, 1987. ________, ed. Vision and Visuality. Dia Art Founda tion Discussions in Contemporary Culture, Number Two Seattle, Washington: Bay Press, 1988. ________. The Return of the Real Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1996. ________. Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics New York: The New Press, 1999. Foucault, Michel. The Foucault Reader ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Press, 1984. ________. The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Fraser, Andrea. In and Out of Place, Art in America (June 1985), 122-129. Grossberg, Lawrence, Cary Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler, eds. Cultural Studies New York: Routledge, 1992. Haacke, Hans. Framing and Being Framed, 7 Works 1970-75 ed. Kasper Koenig. Halifax, Nova Scotia: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975. Hall, Stuart. Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies, Cultural Studies ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Pa ula Treichler. New York: Routledge, 1992, 277-294. Huyssen, Andreas. After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism Bloomington, Indiana: Indian a University Press, 1986. Jameson, Fredric. A Singular Modernity, Essays on the Ontology of the Present London: Verso Books, 2002. Jones, Amelia. Postfeminism, Feminist Pl easures, and Embodied Theories of Art, The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology ed. Donald Preziosi. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, 383-395.

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88 Kelly, Mary. Re-viewing Modernist Criticism, Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation ed. Brian Wallis. New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984, 87-103. Krauss, Rosalind. Sculpture in the Expanded Field, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture ed. Hal Foster. Seattle, Wa shington: Bay Press, 1983, 31-42. ________. The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1985. ________. Louise Lawler: Souvenir Memories, Louise Lawler A Spot on the Wall exhibition catalogue, ed. Hedwig Sa xenhuber. Kln, Germany: Oktagon, 1998, 3539. Kwon, Miwon. One Place After Another, October 80 (Spring 1997), 85-110. Lelong, Guy. Daniel Buren trans. David Radzinowicz. Paris, France: Flammarion, 2002. Lichtenstein, Therese. Louise Lawler, Arts Magazine (February 1983), 5. ________. Louise Lawler/Alan McCollum, Arts Magazine (December 1984), 34. Linker, Kate. Allan McCollum/Louise Lawler, Artforum (January 1985), 87. ________. Rites of Exchange, Artforum (November 1986), 99-100. Meinhardt, Johannes. The Sites of Art: Photographing the In-Between, Louise Lawler: An Arrangement of Pictures New York: Assouline, 2000. Mills, Nicolaus. The Culture of Triumph and the Spirit of the Times, Culture in an Age of Money: The Legacy of the 1980s in America ed. N. Mills. Chicago, Illinois: Ivan R. Dee, 1990. Molesworth, Helen. Louise Lawler at Skarstedt Fine Arts, NY, Documents 15 (Spring/Summer 1999), 59-62. Mulvey, Laura. Visual Pleas ure and Narrative Cinema, Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation ed. Brian Wallis. New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984, 361-373. Nesbit, Molly. Bright Light, Big City: The s Without Walls, Artforum (April 2003), 184-189, 245-248. Owens, Craig. The Discourse of Othe rs: Feminists and Postmodernism, The AntiAesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture ed. Hal Foster. Seattle, Washington: Bay Press, 1983, 57-82.

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89 ________. Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture ed. S. Bryson, B. Kruger, L. Tillman, and J. Weinstock. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1992. Pearlman, Alison. Unpackaging Art of the 1980s Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2003. Pollock, Griselda. Differencing the Canon: Feminist De sire and the Writing of Arts Histories London: Routledge, 1999. Rose, Jacqueline. Sexuality in the Field of Vision London: Verso Books, 1986. Russell, John. What Price Art? Todays Auction Boom Mixes Smart Money and Pounding Hearts., The New York Times (May 31, 1980), 14. Sandler, Irving. Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s New York: Icon Editions, 1996. Silverthorne, Jeanne. Louise Lawler, Artforum (April 1985), 89. Singerman, Howard. Sherrie Levine talks to Howard Singerman, Artforum (April 2003), 190-91. Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. Photography After Art Photography, Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation ed. Brian Wallis. New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984, 75-85. ________. Photography at the Dock: Essays on P hotographic History, Institutions, and Practices Minneapolis, Minnesota: Universi ty of Minnesota Press, 1991. Staniszewski, Mary Anne. The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2001. Trachtenberg, Alan. Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Matthew Brady to Walker Evans New York: Hill and Wang, 1989. Wallis, Brian, ed. Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984. ________, ed. Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business with essays by Rosalyn Deutsche, Hans Haacke, Fredric Jameson, Leo Stei nberg, and Brian Wallis. New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art a nd Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1986. Welchman, John C. In and around the Second Frame, The Rhetoric of the Frame: Essays on the Boundaries of the Artwork ed. Paul Duro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, 203-222.

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90 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Mariola V. Alvarez received both her bachel ors and masters degree in art history from the University of Florida. She plans to begin her docto ral studies in the fall of 2005 and will continue to study and research th e art of the modern period with a special emphasis on the history of postmodern and feminist art.


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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0009423/00001

Material Information

Title: Re-Presenting Louise Lawler : The early work, 1978-1985
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Language: English
Creator: Alvarez, Mariola V. ( Dissertant )
Alberro, Alexander ( Thesis advisor )
Segal, Eric ( Reviewer )
Hegeman, Susan ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008
Copyright Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Dissertations, Academic -- Art and Art History -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Abstract: This thesis examines the early work (1978-1985) of American artist Louise Lawler. In the late seventies artists in the United States produced art that responded to the breakdown of the modernist paradigm, often directly countering or continuing the project begun by the “Minimalist” artists. Lawler’s practice, in many ways, prolongs and expands many of the issues foregrounded by the Minimalist movement: the role of the artist, the interdependence of the exhibition site and the art object, and the phenomenological relationship of the subject and object. Artists practicing “institutional critique,” including Lawler, challenged the traditional model of art, yet, whereas the Minimalists focused on the physical structure of the exhibition site, institutional critique artists contested the ideological frame. Institutional critique took as its object the blurring of high art and everyday life or mass culture, in a sense resuming the call of the historical avant-garde. Lawler distinguishes herself from other post-conceptual artists with a praxis that accentuates the spaces complementary to the museum/gallery site—the collector’s home the corporate office, the auction house, the art journal, the studio—thus fashioning a boundless, open model of value and meaning for art. The artworld is presented as an active network of positions, sites, and frames. This fluid configuration echoes within Lawler’s own practice, which cannot be limited to one medium. Rather the artworks and installation merge to create meaning in concert. As a result, the imbrication of content and formal structure continually calls attention to the power of presentation and display, and thus contests the autonomous object of modernist art. Lawler sharpens her focus on the presentation and display of objects by inscribing or interpellating the viewer within the work. Often, she accomplishes this action through the use of text that includes questions and shifters directly addressing the viewer and thus confronting her/him with a different frame of interpretation. The viewer is made conscious of her/his own “subject-ness”—effected by and constituted through art.
Subject: apparatus, art, artist, artwork, avant garde, contemporary, discourse, display, feminism, Foucault, Greenberg, institution, Lawler, minimalism, modernism, object, postconceptualism, postmodernism, power, presentation, subject, value
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 99 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2005.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0009423:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0009423/00001

Material Information

Title: Re-Presenting Louise Lawler : The early work, 1978-1985
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Language: English
Creator: Alvarez, Mariola V. ( Dissertant )
Alberro, Alexander ( Thesis advisor )
Segal, Eric ( Reviewer )
Hegeman, Susan ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008
Copyright Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Dissertations, Academic -- Art and Art History -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Abstract: This thesis examines the early work (1978-1985) of American artist Louise Lawler. In the late seventies artists in the United States produced art that responded to the breakdown of the modernist paradigm, often directly countering or continuing the project begun by the “Minimalist” artists. Lawler’s practice, in many ways, prolongs and expands many of the issues foregrounded by the Minimalist movement: the role of the artist, the interdependence of the exhibition site and the art object, and the phenomenological relationship of the subject and object. Artists practicing “institutional critique,” including Lawler, challenged the traditional model of art, yet, whereas the Minimalists focused on the physical structure of the exhibition site, institutional critique artists contested the ideological frame. Institutional critique took as its object the blurring of high art and everyday life or mass culture, in a sense resuming the call of the historical avant-garde. Lawler distinguishes herself from other post-conceptual artists with a praxis that accentuates the spaces complementary to the museum/gallery site—the collector’s home the corporate office, the auction house, the art journal, the studio—thus fashioning a boundless, open model of value and meaning for art. The artworld is presented as an active network of positions, sites, and frames. This fluid configuration echoes within Lawler’s own practice, which cannot be limited to one medium. Rather the artworks and installation merge to create meaning in concert. As a result, the imbrication of content and formal structure continually calls attention to the power of presentation and display, and thus contests the autonomous object of modernist art. Lawler sharpens her focus on the presentation and display of objects by inscribing or interpellating the viewer within the work. Often, she accomplishes this action through the use of text that includes questions and shifters directly addressing the viewer and thus confronting her/him with a different frame of interpretation. The viewer is made conscious of her/his own “subject-ness”—effected by and constituted through art.
Subject: apparatus, art, artist, artwork, avant garde, contemporary, discourse, display, feminism, Foucault, Greenberg, institution, Lawler, minimalism, modernism, object, postconceptualism, postmodernism, power, presentation, subject, value
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 99 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2005.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0009423:00001


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RE-PRESENTING LOUISE LAWLER:
THE EARLY WORK, 1978-1985

















By

MARIOLA V. ALVAREZ


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2005

































Copyright 2005

by

Mariola V. Alvarez



































To my parents.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to acknowledge Alexander Alberro for his continuing guidance

through the years, his encouragement during my writing process, and his intelligence,

both tireless and nuanced, which serves as an exemplary model of scholarship. I would

also like to thank both Eric Segal and Susan Hegeman for their perspicacious suggestions

on my thesis and for their formative seminars. I am grateful to the rest of the faculty,

especially Melissa Hyde, staff and graduate students at the School of Art and Art History

whom I had the pleasure of working with and knowing.

My friends deserve endless gratitude for always pushing me to be better than I am

and for voluntarily accepting the position of editor. They influence me in every way.

Finally, I thank my family for making all of this possible.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

LIST OF FIGURES ......... ......................... ...... ........ ............ vi

A B S T R A C T .......................................... .................................................. v iii

CHAPTER

1 IN TRODU CTION ................................................. ...... .................

2 CRITIQUE OF THE INSTITUTION...................................... ......................... 4

A N etw ork of Positions .......................................................... ............... .............. 4
"A rt about A rt" ..................... ...... ................................ ........ ... ...... .... 12
A rt as a Souvenir of C culture .......................................................................... .. .... 17

3 SELECTION, PRESENTATION AND DISPLAY ..................................................28

"A n O pen E conom y of Signs"......................................................... .....................28
On Display: The Spectacle of Art.................................................... ..................33
M etaorders ........................... ... ........................................... .. ...... 36
A Picture Is N o Substitute for Anything................................... ...................... 39

4 THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN EMBODIED SUBJECT.......................................49

Sexuality in the Field of V ision ..................................................... ...................49
The Institutional and the Everyday.................................... .......................... ......... 52
P rivilege of the Sen ses............ ...................................... ................ .. .... .... .. 58
The D esiring Subject .................. ................................... .................. 62
W hat Is the Institution? ....................................................... .. ............ 65

5 C O N C L U SIO N .......... ......................................................................... ........ .... .. 69

L IST O F R EFER EN CE S ............................................................................ ..............86

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................90
















LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

1 Louise Lawler, "An Arrangement of Pictures," Metro Pictures Gallery,
N ew Y ork 19 82 .................................................... ................ 7 1

2 Louise Lawler, Arranged by DonaldMarron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop
at Paine Webber, Inc., 1982, cibachrom e ..................................... .................72

3 Louise Lawler, Arranged by Mera and Donald Rubell, 1982, cibachrome............73

4 Louise Lawler, Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. And Mrs. Burton
Tremaine, Connecticut, 1984, cibachrome.................................... ............... 74

5 Louise Lawler, Arranged by Claire Vincent at the Metropolitan Museum of
Art, New York City, 1982, cibachrome ............ ............................. ............... 75

6 Louise Lawler, (Allan McCollum and Other Artists) Lemon, 1981, cibachrome ....76

7 Louise Lawler, (Holzer, Nadin and Other Artists) Baby Blue, 1981, cibachrome ..76

8 Louise Lawler, (Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black, 1982, cibachrome......77

9 Louise Lawler, (Jenny Holzer and Other Artists) Kelly Green, 1982, cibachrome .77

10 Louise Lawler, (Andy Warhol and Other Artists) Tulip, 1982, cibachrome............78

11 Louise Lawler and Allan McCollum "For Presentation and Display: Ideal
Settings," Diane Brown Gallery, New York City, 1984 .......................................79

12 Louise Lawler, Group Exhibition, Artists Space, New York City, 1978.................80

13 Louise Lawler, Objects, "Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention
What Are We Going to Say?," Metro Pictures Gallery, New York City, 1985.......81

14 Louise Lawler, "Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What
Are We Going to Say?," Metro Pictures Gallery, New York City, 1985 ................82

15 Louise Lawler, "Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What
Are We Going to Say?," Metro Pictures Gallery, New York City, 1985 ................83









16 Louise Lawler, Statue Before Painting, Perseus n i/h the Head of Medusa,
C anova, 1982, cibachrom e ......... ................. .......................................................84

17 Louise Lawler, Sappho and Patriarch, 1984, cibachrome............... .......... 85
















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

RE-PRESENTING LOUISE LAWLER: THE EARLY WORK, 1978-1985

By

Mariola V. Alvarez

May 2005

Chair: Alexander Alberro
Major Department: Art and Art History

This thesis examines the early work (1978-1985) of American artist Louise Lawler.

In the late seventies artists in the United States produced art that responded to the

breakdown of the modernist paradigm, often directly countering or continuing the project

begun by the "Minimalist" artists. Lawler's practice, in many ways, prolongs and

expands many of the issues foregrounded by the Minimalist movement: the role of the

artist, the interdependence of the exhibition site and the art object, and the

phenomenological relationship of the subject and object. Artists practicing "institutional

critique," including Lawler, challenged the traditional model of art, yet, whereas the

Minimalists focused on the physical structure of the exhibition site, institutional critique

artists contested the ideological frame. Institutional critique took as its object the blurring

of high art and everyday life or mass culture, in a sense resuming the call of the historical

avant-garde.

Lawler distinguishes herself from other post-conceptual artists with a praxis that

accentuates the spaces complementary to the museum/gallery site-the collector's home,









the corporate office, the auction house, the art journal, the studio-thus fashioning a

boundless, open model of value and meaning for art. The artworld is presented as an

active network of positions, sites, and frames. This fluid configuration echoes within

Lawler's own practice, which cannot be limited to one medium. Rather the artworks and

installation merge to create meaning in concert. As a result, the imbrication of content

and formal structure continually calls attention to the power of presentation and display,

and thus contests the autonomous object of modernist art.

Lawler sharpens her focus on the presentation and display of objects by inscribing

or interpellating the viewer within the work. Often, she accomplishes this action through

the use of text that includes questions and shifters directly addressing the viewer and thus

confronting her/him with a different frame of interpretation. The viewer is made

conscious of her/his own "subject-ness"-effected by and constituted through art.















CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Louise Lawler takes photographs of art objects-objects in museums, collectors'

homes, and places of business. The photographs give prominence to the objects and their

placement within a hierarchy of presentation and display. The pictures of the

museum/gallery complex index the museological support of an art object while the

pictures of artworks in private spaces trace the spaces and the mobility of power relations

in the art world, "tracking" the object beyond the museum site. Signification is thus

shown to be entirely dependent on context, to be fully contingent and arbitrary. It shifts-

even slips and slides-in concert with the surrounding constellation of cultural signifiers.

Lawler's photographs address this problematic directly, and nowhere more so than in the

artist's 1982 exhibition, "An Arrangement of Pictures," at Metro Pictures Gallery in New

York City. My paper will focus on this particular exhibition as a framing device to

explore the work of an artist who problematizes all frames. Such a framing device, of

course, will itself be theorized as arbitrary-what Stuart Hall has defined as an "arbitrary

closure"-underpinned by the hypothesis that knowledge is not possible without such an

arbitrary closure.1 This early exhibition presents, in crystallized form, many currents and



1 Stuart Hall, "Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies," Cultural Studies, ed., Lawrence Grossberg,
Cary Nelson, Paula A. Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), 278. "I don't believe knowledge is closed,
but I do believe that politics is impossible without what I have called 'the arbitrary closure'; without what
Homi Bhabha called social agency as an arbitrary closure. That is to say, I don't understand a practice
which aims to make a difference in the world, which doesn't have some points of difference or distinction
which it has to stake out, which really matter. It is a question of positionalities. Now, it is true that those
positionalities are never final, they're never absolute. They can't be translated intact from one conjuncture
to another; they cannot be depended on to remain in the same place."









themes that continue to preoccupy Lawler today, most significantly the power of display

and the construction of an embodied viewing subject.

Lawler's photographs comment on the institution of art-a self-reflexivity at once

thoroughly contingent yet grounded in the historical moment of what Hal Foster terms

the "neo-avant-garde."2 As a result, the images exist in relationship to the changing

scene of art in the post-sixties period-post-"Modernist Painting," post-Pop, post-

Minimalism, post-Conceptualism-but also grapple with the historical lessons learned

from these previous art movements, and deal a death knell to any narrative of an avant-

garde. Chapter 2 of the thesis addresses these issues and questions the value of imposing

the avant-garde model on the work of Lawler, or any artist producing art in the

postmodernist period.

Taking a cue from earlier artists practicing "institutional critique" Lawler shifts

away from a conception of art as centralized in the museum to a discursive model in

which art circulates beyond the walls of the museum/gallery complex. As a result, this

borderless circulation affects, conditionally, the meaning and value accrued or lost by the

object. Lawler presents art as an expanded field that in many ways corresponds to the

service industry of capitalism. Her many shifting roles (curator, dealer, designer,

publicist) and sinuous output (photographs, posters, invitations, matchbooks) accentuate

the marketing and selling of art, rather than its supposedly transcendental quality.

Chapter 3 concentrates on the aesthetic selection necessary to the presentation of art and

the display of objects. In her works, Lawler plays with the contingency of meaning

affected by the position of the artwork-within its context, in juxtaposition with other


2 Hal Foster, The Return of the Real (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1996).









non-art objects, and in relationship with other artworks. The values assigned to these

works through their presentation, return the viewer's attention to the economic interests

of the artworld.

The representation of the paradigmatic shift from production to consumption also

locates Lawler's work within questions arising out of feminism: the values associated

with the construction of woman as consumer against man as producer, and the intimate

weaving of the public, personal, and political. Lawler turns her lens on the construction

of the subject through representation and the pleasure afforded this viewer in the act of

looking. This investigation of vision does not create a non-visual art practice, but rather

demonstrates the ways that society's visual presentations allude to a certain power, as

evidenced in Lawler's attempt to unearth the hidden, "naturalized," and tacit patriarchal

foundations of art history. Lawler's work has often been examined solely within the

framework of institutional critique to the detriment of recognizing the space she opens up

for questions of visuality, desire and subjectivity. Chapter 4 of the thesis attempts to

foreground this still unexplored, and very significant, aspect of Lawler's artistic practice.















CHAPTER 2
CRITIQUE OF THE INSTITUTION

The historian employs words, narrative, analysis. The photographer's solution is
in the viewfinder: where to place the edge of the picture, what to exclude, from
what point of view to show the relations among the included details. Both seek a
balance between "reproduction and construction, between passive surrender to
the facts and active reshaping of them into a coherent picture or story. Ordering
facts into meaning, data into history, moreover, is not an idle exercise but a
political act, a matter ofjudgment and choice about the emerging shape of the
present and future. It may be less obvious in the making of a photograph than in
the writing of a history, but it is equally true: the viewfinder is apolitical
instrument, a tool for making a past suitable for the future.
Alan Trachtenberg1

A Network of Positions

"An Arrangement of Pictures" consisted of three parts corresponding to the

physical space of the gallery. Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer encountered

works made not by Lawler, but by the other artists represented by Metro Pictures,

including Jack Goldstein, Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, and James

Welling. In the central area of the gallery, Lawler installed her own photographs of

artworks found in an array of places, including the collector's private home, the corporate

office, and the museum. The final group featured Lawler's photographs of her own

arrangements of other artists' artworks.

The first part of the exhibition was characteristic of Lawler's work in the marked

absence of an authorial figure (Figure 1). Expecting to see a one-woman show, the

viewer instead found recognizable works by other Metro Pictures artists and Lawler's


1 Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History Matthew Brady to Walker Evans
(New York: Hill and Wang, 1989), xiv.









imprint located only on the wall label that read "Arranged by Louise Lawler." The wall

label called into question the position of "artist." As Andrea Fraser points out about this

exhibition in one of the more trenchant texts on Lawler: "viewers were confronted with

an ambiguity of occupation, a shift in position which illuminated the role of the often

unnamed 'arrangers' in the exhibition and exchange of art."2 With one motion, Lawler

both placed the role of the "artist" in crisis and foregrounded the "secondary" roles of

curators and dealers. As such, she hailed art production as a network of positions and

practitioners-as a large-scale production-rather than as the work of a single artist-creator.

This point of view would have been unimaginable without the precedent of the many

artistic practices of the 1960s that relied on external aid in the production of art-whether

that was the aid of a "factory" of assistants or of metalworkers in a factory-throwing into

question the traditional role of the artist as guarantor of authenticity. The production of

mechanical screen prints (Warhol) or serial metal boxes (Judd) distanced, more than ever

before in the modern era, the artist's subjectivity from his practice. Lawler, too, evacuates

authorial/authoritative claims from her work, articulating in turn what Hal Foster has

described as "the division of labor that produces the hierarchical functions and generic

forms of art."3 As "An Arrangement of Pictures" makes clear, she remains absent even in

the exposition of the work. By vacating the position of "artist," Lawler dialectically

highlights that notion's primary significance to the institution of art.





2 Andrea Fraser, "In and Out of Place," Art in America (June 1985), 125. I am highly indebted to Fraser's
intelligent essay for elucidating many powerful arguments of Lawler's work, which have influenced my
readings.

3 Hal Foster, Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (New York: The New Press, 1999), 106.









For her exhibition "Home/Museum Arranged for Living and Viewing," held at the

Wadsworth Atheneum's Matrix Gallery in 1984, Lawler played a seven-minute

audiotape, Birdcalls. This humorous audiotape features a litany of names of male artists

recited by Lawler. Fraser interprets Birdcalls as an exploration of the way the proper

name tends to unify the subject it designates: "Signifying the essential yet imaginary

identity of a unified ego, the proper name establishes the subject as such, in language,

under the law."4 Additionally, the proper name of the artist serves as his signature,

uniting his works while erasing difference. This enables the viewer/collector to consume

sameness through authenticity. According to the artist, the origin of the Birdcalls project

began in the early 1970s when she was one of several women installing artworks for one

of the Hudson River pier projects. All of the artists featured in these shows were male.

While walking home in the evenings from work on this project, she and another female

friend would speak gibberish to each other in loud voices to ward away danger. The

gibberish eventually became the proper names of a litany of contemporary artists. The

process was initiated by the name "Willoughby, Willoughby" Sharp, the "impresario" of

the specific Hudson River pier project on which Lawler and her friend worked.5 Lawler

continued to add names to this piece until 1982, including those of the Neo-Expressionist

"masters" of the 1980s: Enzo Cucchi, Francesco Clemente and Julian Schnabel.

Lawler dodges name recognition as much as she does interviews, avoiding the

tendency of both practices to render the "speaking" subject, the authorial "I," transparent

and whole. On those rare occasions when she has granted interviews, she has


4 Fraser, 127.

5 Douglas Crimp, "Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An Interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas
Crimp," Louise Lawler: An Arrangement ofPictures (New York: Assouline, 2000), unpaginated.









consistently expressed her discomfort with the potential collapse of work and artist that

might ensue. As she put it in an interview with Martha Buskirk in 1994: "And this points

to one reason why I resist interviews: they foreground the artist-tell too much about

what wouldn't be known when confronting the work. In rereading and trying to rework

my responses, I find I am always backing up, wondering why I responded as I did, and

filling in."6 What this comment makes apparent is not only reluctance to "foreground" the

artist over the work, but also a resistance to the construction of a centered subject of

authority, to the author defined by Foucault as "a field of conceptual or theoretical

coherence."7 This marks a significant shift from the subject position of the conceptual

artist/scholar who occupied the role of both artist and critic. Key aspects of the written

texts of, for instance, Dan Graham, Robert Smithson, Mel Bochner, Martha Rosler and

Allan Sekula, were considered coterminous with the visual works produced by these

artists. The practice of the artist/scholar, through twists and turns, is traceable back to

what came to be called the Minimalist movement. I am thinking here in particular of

Donald Judd and Robert Morris's writings, which had a dual function of defining and

producing the terrain of Minimalism while also justifying their own practices within that

field.

Mary Kelly, in her perspicacious essay, "Re-viewing Modernist Criticism,"

addresses the crisis of artistic authorship posed in the wake of Minimalism, in which the

object becomes "no more than a prop without the intervention of the actor/artist and his



6 Martha Buskirk, "Interviews with Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler, and Fred Wilson" October 70 (Fall
1994), 108.

7Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?" (1979), The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York:
Pantheon, 1984), 111.










script."8 Kelly specifically indicts the body of the artist in performance art of the late

1960s and early 1970s. Performance artists relied on visual documentation to remain in

circulation beyond the actual performances they enacted. Authenticity in art passes from

the markings on a canvas to the "real" body performing art. As Kelly put it: "In

performance work it is no longer a question of investing the object with an artistic

presence: the artist is present and creative subjectivity is given as the effect of an

essential self-possession, that is, of the artist's body and his inherent right of disposition

over it."9 In this way, the artist and her/his body became the autonomous artwork, and the

corporeal became the signature. This is not to imply that Lawler's practice carried over

into Performance art, or that she presented her body as a source of authenticity. On the

contrary, Lawler's "authority" has often been evacuated or displaced from her work. In

its place is a work that demands the viewer's active participation.10 Meaning is not

located in the place of the artist, but in the readings made by the viewer, and in the

recognition of the art object as contiguous to its context, within a system of fluctuating

meanings and value. By experimenting with various media and installation designs, and





8 Mary Kelly, "Re-viewing Modernist Criticism," inArt After Modernism: R, ri,,lik,,i Representation, ed.
Brian Wallis (New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984), 87-103.

9 Ibid., 95.

101 borrow here from Griselda Pollock's feminist model of art history, which requires a new kind of
reading by the viewer and critic. (Although she references the medium of painting, her words can be
applied to all art forms.) "In the traditional model, the artwork is a transparent screen through which you
have only to look to see the artist as a psychologically coherent subject originating the meanings the work
so perfectly reflects. The critical feminist model relies on the metaphor of reading rather than mirror-
gazing. What we see on even the most figuratively illusionistic paintings are signs, for art is a semiotic
practice. The notion of reading in art renders the graphic marks and painted surfaces of art opaque, dense,
recalcitrant; they never directly offer up meaning but have to be deciphered, processed and argued over."
Pollock, DirttreCn in,. the Canon: Feminist Desire and the ;;, r,, i ofArt's Histories (London: Routledge,
1999), 98.









always selecting an art form specific to the historical condition and contextual frame,

Lawler also avoids the trap of a signature style.

Lawler's work accentuates positions of power beyond the solitary artist-creator.

These would include the roles of curators, dealers, collectors and others who are active in

determining the value of art. In the instance of the exhibition "An Arrangement of

Pictures," the gallery was foregrounded as a locus for the centralization of meaning. This

was especially fitting since the artists represented by Metro Pictures at the time were

considered to be crucially concerned with critiquing "representation," a perception

thrown into high relief by the "Pictures" exhibition, curated by Douglas Crimp at Artists

Space in 1977. By highlighting the gallery's overdetermining role, Lawler's own public

identity disappears into the apparatus, into the presentation/exhibition mechanism. In

turn, the role of Metro Pictures, or any other like gallery, in promoting a particular

"brand" of artists, is demonstrated.11 The fact that this maneuver took place in the early

1980s is not without significance. The network of galleries that comprised the New York

scene exploded in the late 1970s, which prompted the need for a greater degree of

differentiation. Galleries began to take on distinct identities, produced by slick marketing

techniques and the overplay of "hype." Artists associated themselves with particular

galleries such as Metro Pictures, Mary Boone Gallery or Pace Wildenstein Gallery to

gain greater recognizability and marketability.




11 The history of Metro Pictures stems from the gallery Artists Space, a thriving site for the emergence of
new artists in New York, including the "Pictures" exhibition, as well as the site of Lawler's first New York
exhibition in 1978, discussed in chapter 3. Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring opened Metro Pictures in
1980. Both women came to the venture with rich experience in gallery administration; Winer had been
director of Artists Space for the previous five years and Reiring had worked with Leo Castelli for five
years.









These changes mark a dramatic shift from the function of alternative spaces in New

York in the early seventies. For example, in December 1969 Holly Solomon opened 98

Greene Street as a communal space where artists could show their work and interact with

each other. 98 Greene Street, unlike Metro Pictures or the Mary Boone Gallery, did not

function as a commercial gallery, but as a performance space, where artists could enact

plays, screen films and videotapes, and install paintings, photographs, sculpture and text-

based works. Decentered spaces for art such as 98 Greene Street became much more

difficult to maintain with the transition from alternative sites to a codified gallery system.

What also became difficult to maintain in this process was a sense of artistic community,

as well as the belief that artists were producing work in dialogue with their peers.

Increasingly, the dialogue shifted to one in which gallery owners and collectors played a

central role.12 Lawler alluded to this shift with her suggestion that the works exhibited in

the "An Arrangement of Pictures" show could be sold for the combined price of each

individual work with an additional 10 percent fee for herself. The latter was to be

channeled directly to her. As such, Lawler underscored the economic interests and

dealings of gallery owners and collectors, and re-emphasized the multiple non-aesthetic

dimensions of art.

By exhibiting the work of other Metro Pictures artists as part of her own solo

exhibition, Lawler alluded to the overdetermining role of institutional forces on the

12 In the book The Art Dealers Janelle Reiring comments on the state of the New York art market just four
years after the opening of Metro Pictures and the rapid transformations affecting the scene. "Artists are in a
very strong position today vis- -vis dealers, which is a major change-and a healthy one-in the New
York art market. Before the arrival of so many new galleries, there were many good artists without dealer
representation. Now the galleries are competing for them. New artists are given shows just to see if they'll
catch on, so it's no longer possible to stand back and follow an artist's development before acting: the
luxury we had of watching our artists for several years before opening Metro Pictures is a thing of the
past." Laura De Coppet and Alan Jones, The Art Dealers (New York: Charles N. Potter, Inc./Publishers,
1984), 294.









subject position of the individual artist. As the large, complex network that produces

value for art came to be accentuated and the gendered discourses of art came to be

problematized, the function of power in the art world was shown to consist of a multiple

network of positions rather than a one-to-one relationship. Michel Foucault described

this dynamic succinctly in The History of Sexuality (1976): "Power is not something that

is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away;

power is exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of nonegalitarian and mobile

relations."13 Where Foucault describes the interplay of power between human relations

within discourses and institutions, Lawler focuses on how power is enacted in the local

context of the artworld through the manipulation of objects-their collection, display,

attribution, commodification-and how these relationships produce meaning and value.

Lawler demonstrates the discourse of power most acutely in her photographs of

artworks in spaces such as museums, private homes, and corporate offices. Such works

formed the second section of "An Arrangement of Pictures." These photographs critique

the aesthetic object as defined through the rhetoric of modernism. The deconstruction of

the ostensibly autonomous artwork has preoccupied artists since the 1960s. Practitioners

of what variously came to be called "institutional critique" or critical postmodernism in

the 1970s and 1980s deconstructed the institutional frames and challenged the

conventional modes by which Western culture determines and grants value to art. Hence

the discrete object was revealed to be fully dependent on its presentational site for its

various meanings. Institutional critique is a practice that emerged with Minimalism,

although subsequent artistic movements shifted Minimalism's concern with physical sites

13 Michel Foucault, The History ofSexuality, Volume I: An Introduction (New York: Vintage Books, 1990),
94.









to open an exploration of the role of context and discourse on the production of artworks.

As Miwon Kwon has argued, institutional critique, an extension of the phenomenological

model associated with Minimalism, revealed the museum/gallery space as "an

institutional disguise, a normative exhibition convention serving an ideological function.

. that actively disassociate[s] the space of art from the outer world, furthering the

institution's idealist imperative of rendering itself and its hierarchization of values

'objective,' 'disinterested,' and 'true'."14 Practitioners of institutional critique directly

clashed with the modernist paradigm of the art critic Clement Greenberg and his

followers that called for the pursuit of a fully autonomous, "pure" art. By contrast, artists

critical of the institutional framework of culture questioned the unspoken values and

practices that overdetermined high art. As such, thrown into crisis were not just the self-

referential properties of a specific medium or the phenomenological relationship vis-a-vis

the object and subject, but also the very basis of high culture in the late twentieth-century.

The high modernist notion of the object as self-contained and separate from culture, from

"the outer world," could no longer be taken for granted. Lawler's photographs attest to

the daily mingling of high art and everyday cultural objects.

"Art about Art"

In A Singular Modernity (2002), Fredric Jameson argues for the bifurcation of

modernism into high and late modes.15 This division is both philosophical and

chronological, the latter designated by the post Second World War period in Europe and


14 Miwon Kwon, "One Place after Another," October 80 (Spring 1997), 88. Kwon follows the trajectory of
site-specific art from the late 1960s and early 1970s to its current manifestation in a globalized world where
the artist is a nomadic curator, ethnographer and bureaucrat.
15 Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity, Essays on the Ontology of the Present (London: Verso Books,
2002).









America. Philosophically, Jameson posits "autoreferentiality or self-designation" as a

key element of modernism. High modernist art created forms that had no prior existence

or standard of measurement. Modernist artists named these forms, and, more

significantly, established their own criteria of use and value, often investing these forms

with mythic and specialized meanings, but still holding them in tension with mass

cultural forces. "The purely aesthetic," in turn, is thereby indissolublyy linked to the

requirement that it be ultimately impure."16 Thus, according to Jameson, the aesthetic

cannot be fully divided from its own referent; it cannot be fully autonomous. Aesthetic

autonomy is an essential characteristic of what Jameson refers to as the ideology of

modernism; yet once it has in fact become a characteristic, a systematic concept of

modernism, a new form of modernism emerges: late modernism. The concept of

"ideology" becomes the hinge on which high modernism turns into late modernism,

indicating "a belated product" not located within the modern movement itself." Jameson

posits this mode of modernism as a distinctly American product of the Cold War. He

tracks a shift in history when utopian desires were deflated and consumerism replaced

productivity. In response to these transformations, modernism becomes a programmatic

system of replication.

To describe this recalibrated modernism, Jameson addresses the works of authors

in the circle of New Criticism, as well as the critical writings of Greenberg. For

Greenberg, aesthetic autonomy was based on principles that were both anti-bourgeois and

apolitical. This point of view allowed him to construct a transhistorical narrative for the


16 Ibid., 160.

1 Ibid., 197.









arts in the legacy of German idealism. Furthermore, according to Greenberg the narrative

of abstraction dispensed with "content" as the terrain of politics and ideological

referentiality, and thus allowed the move toward an autonomy of medium/technique.

Greenberg thereby continued the high modernists' ability to revise the past to fit the

present by tracing a history of modernist art beginning with Manet that valued "flatness"

above all other elements. This shifted the definition of modernism into a pursuit of the

autonomy of the medium, and eliminated from the critical dimension of modernism any

social, let alone political dimensions. Jameson argues for a constellation within the arts,

including literature, centered on an autonomy of medium, with each acting as a model for

the other in their opposition to culture. Rather than Greenberg's kitsch, Jameson defines

culture as "the true enemy of art."18 Culture divides or mediates everyday life from art. It

is not a separation of the aesthetic from non-aesthetic; culture acts spatially with the

potential to transform life into art or art into life. For the modernists, life degraded art,

and though they recognized their own aesthetic production as cultural, they purified the

aesthetic of the cultural.

Jameson thus points to the adoption of key high modernist concepts by late

modernists, but shows how these concepts are now unified and collectively renewed with

a definitive self-consciousness that was previously absent. He also stresses the

significance of the emergence of a "full-blown ideology of modernism that differentiates

the practices of the late modern from modernism proper."19 In many ways, the distinction

between high and late modernism hinges on these practices. The high modernists knew


18 Ibid., 177.

19 Ibid., 197.









that what they were doing was new and allowed it to come from a space of innovative

exploration. The late modernists, by contrast, established a practice rooted in an ideology

already enacted earlier in the century. Late modernist practice cemented modernism into

a codified rhetoric that then fueled a reflexivity more concerned with "the status of the

artist as modernist," with an "art about art," than with an art "about representation

itself."20

Many of the artists practicing institutional critique make "art about art." Following

the example of Pop Art, Lawler, along with various other artists in the eighties, took up

what Greenberg deemed to be detritus-namely content-and (re)asserted its value to the

story of art. In the process, the critical modernism of the historical avant-garde that

sought to fuse advanced art with everyday life in order to transform the latter in a

progressive direction was summoned. Andreas Huyssen in "The Search for Tradition:

Avantgarde and Postmodernism in the 1970s" (1981) called for a distinction between the

two formations, the avant-garde and modernism, which are often conflated in the

literature.21 Drawing on the writings of Peter Burger, Huyssen defines avant-garde as the

work produced by early twentieth-century artists in the spirit of revolution. The aim of

this work, according to Huyssen, was to integrate art and life, and in turn "to undermine,

attack, and transform the bourgeois 'institution art'."22 By contrast, modernism is defined

as that art praxis founded on an autonomy and purity of the art object separate from mass

culture. For Huyssen, the writings of Greenberg and the artworks of the Abstract

20Ibid., 198.

21 Andreas Huyssen, "The Search for Tradition: Avantgarde and Postmodernism in the 1970s," After the
Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press,
1986), 160-177.
22 Ibid., 167.









Expressionist movement epitomize this notion of modernism. Huyssen believes that the

tradition of the avant-garde was revitalized by the Pop art movement, and by the artistic

movements that followed, but only as an endgame: "The American postmodernist

avant-garde, therefore, is not only the endgame of avantgardism. It also represents the

fragmentation and the decline of the avant-garde as a genuinely critical and adversary

culture."23 With the transformations brought on by the culture industry, the landscape of

art had been completely transformed, as the line that formerly separated high art from

mass culture was erased. Advanced, critical art thereby lost whatever potential it

formerly had to counter and ultimately transform society.

The term "subversive complicity" was coined in the late 1980s to address the

practice of"Simulationism" by artists such as Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Philip Taaffe,

and Meyer Vaisman. Alison Pearlman and other writers have also applied this term to

the work of artists practicing not only Simulationism but also Appropriation. Pearlman

specifically cites the work of Barbara Kruger to illustrate subversion by seduction.

Kruger, she argues "seduc[es] the viewer on the basis of the ingrained appeal of an

appropriated image and then subvert[s] the viewer's expectations just when the viewer

was most attentive to the work."24 Pearlman goes on to distinguish this strategy, which

she sees as rooted in contemporary media strategies such as advertising, from an avant-

garde approach that utilizes "the revolutionary rhetoric of sudden overthrow, protest, and

refusal."25 Whereas postmodern artists sought to engage politically with the art world,



23 Ibid., 170.

24 Alison Pearlman, Unpackaging Art of the 1980s (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 99.

25 Ibid.









locally, and with the "outer world" at large, the realm of culture is no longer distinct from

that of art or any other for that matter because capital has colonized all areas of existence.

The changing relationship of mass culture and high art is one of the defining

characteristics of the shift from modernism to postmodernism. Rather than presenting

alternative modes of experience, postmodern artists work critically within the confines of

complicity.

Art as a Souvenir of Culture

Lawler's photographs of art objects within the spaces of collectors' homes and

offices negotiate this complicity and present contested juxtapositions such as the art

object and the everyday object, avant-garde and kitsch, high art and mass culture. Unlike

Pop art's insertion of everyday images into the frame of high art, Lawler photographs the

living and breathing juxtapositions and contradictions of high art and mass culture. As

such, she interrogates the position of art outside the common spaces of exhibition,

questioning the value associated with those spaces, while also presenting the power of

display.26 These quotidian spaces complement the symbolic value of the museum/gallery

complex in the determination of the value and meaning of art. Lawler's photographs

open up a number of multifaceted questions about the role of the collector/consumer

within the "institution" of art, the role of the objet d'art as economic currency, and the

role of space as transformative of an artwork's value. In these ways, Lawler's pictures


26 argue here for a re-assessment of the value of spaces that display art, i.e. the collector's home, outside
the museum complex. The museum as a site of power has been richly excavated in many texts, naming just
a few, which have been useful to my studies: Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum (London: Routledge),
Daniel Buren, 5 Texts (New York: The John Weber Gallery and London: The Jack Wendler Gallery, 1973),
Douglas Crimp, On the Museum's Ruins (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1993), Carol
Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (London: Routledge, 1995), Hans Haacke, Hans
Haacke: Unfinished Business (New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art and Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1986), Brian O'Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the
Gallery Space (Santa Monica, California: The Lapis Press, 1976).










straddle both the discipline of art and sociology, and are conducive to readings not unlike

those pursued by cultural studies. Evoking Jameson's definition of culture as the space

of mediation between art and everyday life, Lawler considers artworks as material and

symbolic tools employed by their owners in their full contradiction-as objects that at

once indicate status and distinction and locate their owners within a popular cultural

system. Thus art objects both separate the collector and enmesh her/him further in

culture.27

The relationship of the collector to the artwork shifted in the 1980s. One of the

most important theorists of this transition was Jean Baudrillard who argued for the

primacy of sign value in contemporary art.28 In particular, Baudrillard tracked the way in

which practices of collecting increased the sign value of the collector/consumer.

Baudrillard traced the move in the postwar period away from traditional (Marxist)

notions of the commodity, with its links to use value, toward the circulation of objects

within a system of sign exchange value. His theories on the political economy of the sign

were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and coincided with the increased

importance of the auction house within the field of contemporary art. While auction

houses had been operative for most of the twentieth-century, Baudrillard showed that


27 In addition to Jameson's notion of culture, I am also deploying the term "culture" as understood by
cultural studies, which does not have one singular definition, but includes culture as defined by Paul Willis:
"the very material of our daily lives, the bricks and mortar of our most commonplace understandings" or
culture "both as a way of life-encompassing ideas, attitudes, languages, practices, institutions, and
structures of power-and a whole range of cultural practices: artistic forms, texts, canons, architecture,
mass-produced commodities, and so forth." Cary Nelson, Paula A. Treichler, and Lawrence Grossberg,
"Introduction," Cultural Studies, 4-5.

28 Two of the more significant essays about art and signification for my purposes written by Jean
Baudrillard in the late sixties and early seventies include "Gesture and Signature: The Semiurgy of
Contemporary Art" and "The Art Auction: Sign Exchange and Sumptuary Value." These essays were later
collected into a book, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (St. Louis, Missouri: Telos Press
Ltd., 1981), 102-11 and 112-122.










never before had these institutions played such an important role in establishing the price

of contemporary art. Dealers began to use the auction house to make the prices of

contemporary art public and thus to stabilize them, establishing relatively firm sets of

value that could be applied as a barometer for exchange. Together with the publicity

machine, Baudrillard argued, the auction house could also be used to endow the collector

with a public sign value. Reluctant to invest cash because of the recession and the

declining value of the US dollar in the global market, collectors in the seventies

increasingly bought art works as currency, functioning as sumptuary expenditures that

could be traded and sold for increasing amounts of money.29 In 1980, John Russell of The

New York Times reported on "the breakdown of confidence in every alternative mode of

investment, whereby the work of art functions primarily as an ostentatious form of

travelers check ... In times of crisis great art is an immediately recognizable and rapidly

negotiable form of wealth."30 The practice of purchasing art as speculation, as an

investment, and not purely for personal pleasure (or even noble obligation noted by

Foster), becomes supreme. Art thus becomes a souvenir of the experience of culture.31


29 Irving Sandler, Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s (New York: Icon
Editions, 1996), 426. "The art-market buildup in America had begun after the recession of 1974-75.
Exacerbated by an oil crisis and the tremendous inflation it triggered, the slump gave rise to a new kind of
thinking about investment in art. Many Americans panicked as they saw their cash reserves dwindle. This
caused them to acquire solid assets, such as real estate, precious gems-and art. People began to think of
works of art not just as luxury items but as tangible properties."

30 John Russell, "What Price Art? Today's Auction Boom Mixes Smart Money and Pounding Hearts," The
New York Times (May 31, 1980), 14. Russell goes on to write: "The auction boom also has to do with the
instability of all other forms of investment. There are still plenty of people in the world who have more
money than they know what to do with. They don't want to own stock. They got burned in silver. Their
general situation is such that they have to leave town in a hurry. So what are they to do? They buy art. Art
gets their names in the papers as persons of substance. Art looks nice on the wall. You can take art almost
anywhere, and great art has never yet not gone up in price."

31 Hal Foster, writing in 1985, comments in the "Introduction" to his book, Recodings, on the role of art to
collectors. "In effect, the bourgeoisie abandoned its own avant-garde artists and cultural experts (whose
competence is now often dismissed if it does not fit the political agenda). Though federal governments
may offer token support, art (at least in the United States) is today the plaything of (corporate) patrons










Lawler's photographs illustrate the emergence of a culture "rooted in the belief that

possession is the key to authenticity."32 For instance, the photograph, Arranged by

Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber, Inc., 1982 (Figure 2),

exhibited in the "An Arrangement of Pictures" show, depicts two men working in the

office of Paine Webber. Behind them, three works by Roy Lichtenstein hang on the wall.

The photograph functions on two levels. First, it presents documentary information of

the increasingly widespread phenomenon whereby investment companies and banks

established programs promoting the value of art as economic currency.33 Lawler's

photograph alludes to the fact that Paine Webber was a financial advisory company, and

accentuates the easy blending of art and money accomplished by the company.

On a second level, however, Lawler summons the characteristic humor of

Lichtenstein's works by framing the photograph to encompass the paintings in their

entirety. The top painting represents a woman who sings: "The melody haunts my

reverie...." The painting below it features a chiseled-faced man being punched. The


whose relation to culture is less one of noble obligation than of overt manipulation-of art as a sign of
power, prestige, publicity." Recodings, 4. Though it may be worthwhile to ask when, if ever, art functioned
purely as pleasure. Rosalind Krauss makes the connection between the Benjaminian collector and the new
tastemakers when she writes, "But even as the true collector performs this ritual of liberating the objects in
his collection, the consumer debases that gesture by giving it its commodity form, since the consumer's
collecting consists in nothing more than 'packaged' memories in the form of souvenirs." Rosalind Krauss,
"Louise Lawler: Souvenir Memories," Louise Lawler -A Spot on the Wall, exhibition catalogue, (Kdln,
Germany: Oktagon, 1998), 38.

32 Nicolaus Mills, "The Culture of Triumph and the Spirit of the Times," Culture in an Age of Money: The
Legacy of the 1980s in America, ed. N. Mills (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1990), 26.

33 Marylin Bender wrote that in 1985 Citibank hired three art historians to be part of the Art Advisory
Service, a group that counseled the bank's clients "on the maintenance and acquisition of collections,
including representing them at auction sales" in her article, "Sotheby's and a Few Big Banks Are Lending
Money on Art as Never Before. But There's a Risk in Using Calder as Collateral." The New York Times
(February 3, 1985), 1, 26. Already by 1979, Sotheby's and Citibank had entered into an agreement in
which Sotheby's advised the bank on its purchases of art and antiques. In a conflict of interest Sotheby's
acted "both as the seller and as the advisor to potential buyers of the goods the auction house or its
competitorsdealers and other auctioneers-sell." Rita Reif, "Sotheby's To Advise Citibank," The New
York Times (September 20, 1979), C22.









word "POW!" designates the impact while the cartoon bubble reads, "Sweet dreams,

baby!" The sharp humor and kitschy-cartoon style of the paintings looms large within

the frame of Lawler' s photograph, but at the same time the two men ignore the paintings

in favor of their business dealings. As a result, Lichtenstein's paintings-their meanings

and histories-literally function as backdrops to this otherwise unexceptional office scene.

The photograph thereby raises the question of value-the value of the works to those who

purchase them. Are the artworks in question solely objects of consumption, functioning

as commodity sign forms? What new value do they accrue to the consumer that is

distinct from their own history? Baudrillard writes that a "sign object is neither given nor

exchanged," it is manipulated by the subject causing difference.34 The art object-bought

and sold by the artist, collector, dealer, auction house-enters a system of contingent and

variable value whereby it is codified as a sign. Within this context, the art object only

acquires value from the other signs within the system.35 In the case of the Lichtenstein

paintings, for instance, the value is located primarily in their signature style; it is the

name of the artist and what that artist signifies that endows these paintings with value.

Another example from "An Arrangement of Pictures" is a photograph of a

collector's domestic space, Arranged by Mera and DonaldRubell, 1982 (Figure 3).

Captured within the frame are various artworks, including a painting by Robert Longo

and a sculpture by Deborah Butterfield, along with common living room furniture: a

couch, coffee table, chairs, and light fixtures. The angle of the photograph emphasizes



34 Baudrillard, "The Ideological Genesis of Needs," For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, 65.
"The sign object is neither given nor exchanged: it is appropriated, withheld and manipulated by individual
subjects as a sign, that is, as coded difference."

35 Baudrillard shows how this is similar to the function of myths according to Levi-Strauss. Ibid., 66.









the cluttered space of the room. The shallow perspectival depth throws all of the objects

in the room into close proximity. Taken in itself, this detail marks a significant break

from the distance allotted artworks within a museum/gallery site. The couch acts as the

organizing element of the room, once again rendering the artworks as backdrops to the

living space of the collector. Lawler makes the unusual but obviously deliberate choice

of selecting the photograph that features a dog, presumably the Rubell's pet, walking

through the image. The movement of the animal renders him out of focus. The position

of the blurred dog echoes the Butterfield horse directly behind it. The dog throws the

sculpted horse into crisis, blurring its sign function and accentuating its opacity. The

horse stands in fluctuating relation to the various signs of the room-the paintings behind

it that unite it under the category "art," the couch in front of it that transforms it into

interior decor, and the dog that points to an external referent in the game of

representation.

Traversing all of these photographs, then, is the recurring question of the

relationship between art and life, or art and lived experience. This question is

foregrounded by the removal of the artwork from the isolated white cube, contemplating

it now within the context of everyday, non-art objects (and living animals!) in a

collector's working and living space. The photographs thus summon the discourse of the

historical avant-garde outlined above by Huyssen, and question what happens to that

discourse in this context. In addition, the photographs connect mass culture to the

domains of the domestic and the decorative, two categories traditionally severed from

critical modernist discourse, but revitalized by feminist debates of the 1970s and 80s.










Lawler's photographs of arrangements within the domestic order call into question

what happens to an artwork when it is domesticated. What happens to its meaning and

value? Just as the Lichtenstein paintings were turned into corporate backdrops, Lawler's

Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Connecticut, 1984

(Figure 4), blurs a work by Pollock and a ceramic soup tureen, playing the drips and

swirls of Pollock's paintings against the decorative form of the tureen. Helen

Molesworth poses this challenging question of the photograph: "Do Pollocks and

Warhols really lose their intellectual, critical, and radical credentials when they are seen

to be decorative-or worse yet, when they are seen to be like things such as objets

d'art?"36 Or, positioned another way, is the domestic sphere traditionally aligned with the

feminine, the threatened Other to the modernist, masculine space of production? Is

Lawler recording the contemporary shift from a society of production to one of

consumption by marking the domestic within her photographs?37

With Pollock and Tureen, then, the domestic and decorative are presented as

concepts already existing within art history but debased as the "other modern(ism),"

much like the figure of the sexed woman within modernist literature and art. Yet Lawler



36 Helen Molesworth, "Louise Lawler at Skarstedt Fine Arts, NY," Documents 15 (Spring/Summer 1999),
62.

37 One could also include the department store as an Other to the modernist space of production
fictionalized in Emile Zola's novel, Au bonheur des dames. James Meyer cites Greenberg's dislike of the
exhibition "Good Design" held as a collaborative effort between the Museum of Moder Art and the
Chicago Merchandise Mart annually from 1949 until 1955. The exhibition-cum-department store
encouraged the public to purchase the latest in modern design. This "blurring of art and interior d6cor"
transformed MoMA into a Christmastime shopping mall, and granted commodity objects the "aesthetic
version of a Good Housekeeping seal," as noted by Mary Anne Staniszewski in her book The Power of
Display: A History ofExhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
The MIT Press, 2001), 176. James Meyer, Minimalism (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press),
217.









is also re-presenting the domestic, the collector, as a site of power within the institution

of art redefining both the value and meaning of art, and therefore complicating the

(un)easy binary of private/public. This further destabilizes the siteless modernist object,

as well as the position of the artist as autonomous genius. By photographing these

spaces, Lawler returns the privatized works back into public discourse, calling attention

to the powerful role of the individual collector as another node within the "nonegalitarian

and mobile relations" of power. Lawler's practice must be placed within the historical

trajectory of the feminist movement that spread across the U.S. in the sixties and

seventies chanting the slogan "the personal is political," a call to interrogate the two

domains of public and private believed unfairly polarized and unequally privileged. Her

photographs question whether or in what ways the personal is always political. How

does the private space of the collector affect the work of art? To repeat Molesworth's

question, does an artwork lose its credentials when it shifts into the private sphere?

The affected object returns to the public sphere now within the photographic frame

with a new set of questions or challenges. Pushing Molesworth's question further, one

might ask whether or not art, created within "postmodernism," confronted by its own

inevitable commodification, might adequately be examined and valued by the same, even

radical, criteria that championed the strategies of the now-defunct avant-garde? Hal

Foster in "Subversive Signs"(1982) recognized a new model of political art demonstrated

by Lawler, Allan McCollum, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and others, which "extends

beyond conditions of production and exhibition."38 But he also places these artists in

opposition to other artists practicing institutional critique who firmly sought the abolition


38 Foster, "Subversive Signs," Recodings, 103.










of the status quo in art.39 Yet Foster's language betrays his position as a critical modernist

who continues to promote art as having a subversive potential, able to exist outside the

system. As such, he criticizes Lawler for operating within the system, and posits Lawler

(and McCollum) as an "ironic collaborator" of art's "market apparatus."40

Rosalind Krauss, on the other hand, characterizes Lawler's "style" as "tender

neutrality" and Lawler's approach to her subjects as non-judgmental, meditative, and

dispassionate.41 Situating Lawler's strategy within a context fully pervaded by the

spectacle, a context in which the postmodern artist has accepted the commodification of

all aspects of life, Krauss comments on the absence of outrage, a response utterly

distinctive of the avant-garde. The word neutral also finds its way into a short essay on

Lawler by Johannes Meinhardt: "Her photographs are neutral: they neither denounce nor

criticize, nor do they take a stand with regard to the situation."42 Documentary is

deployed to describe a practice believed to be absent of commentary or deliberate use of

the camera. This word choice by both authors is interesting, and somewhat hollow,

because in many ways it recalls the rhetoric of modernism, what Kwon distinguished as

"objective, disinterested, and true."43 But what it reveals is a value system no longer


39 Foster includes the following quote from Daniel Buren in the footnotes to the essay, Recodings, 221: "the
ambition, not of fitting in more or less adequately with the game, nor even of contradicting it, but of
abolishing its rules by playing with them, and playing another game, on another or the same ground, as a
dissident." Buren, Reboundings, trans. Philippe Hunt (Bruusels: Daled & Gevaert, 1977), 73.

40 Ibid., 106. "Like a dye in the bloodstream, the work of these artists does delineate the circulation system
of art, but it also operates within its terms. If artists like Buren and Asher may become guardians of the
demystified myths of the art museum, then artists like Lawler and McCollum may indeed serve as 'ironic
collaborators' of its market apparatus."

41 Krauss, 35.

42 Johannes Meinhardt, "The Sites of Art: Photographing the In-Between," Louise Lawler: An Arrangement
ofPictures, unpaginated.

43 Kwon, "One Place after Another," 88.










concretized but now completely contingent, and the absence of a way to discuss works

produced within the spectacle-both complicit and critical. Lawler's practice challenges

any traditional notions and values of inside/outside, public/private, and political/critical.

In "Living with Contradictions: Critical Practices in the Age of Supply-Side

Aesthetics," Abigail Solomon-Godeau investigates the binary of political and critical in

Lawler's works.44 Written in the late 1980s her essay points to the appropriation of

postmodernism by the media and its employment as a stylistic tool. Solomon-Godeau's

text echoes many of the propositions made by Lawler in her own work. Though Lawler

does not write in defense of her work, nor grant interviews as a tool to further elaborate

its meaning, the work itself questions and critiques the institution of art, and works

toward a redefinition of the institution. Lawler's practice maps the ambivalent, not

ambiguous, position of the postmodern artist-a position that I would argue is shared by

Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer-to the culture at large and to the possible space of

contestation that an artist can occupy i/hin culture.45 Solomon-Godeau calls for new

ways to evaluate critical art practices in a system without an oppositional outside, a

system in which "the market is 'behind' nothing, it is in everything."46 The critic and the

artist must explore contradictions and contingencies to produce a space of contestation

44 Abigail Solomon-Godeau, "Living with Contradictions: Critical Practices in the Age of Supply-Side
Aesthetics," Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions and Practices
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 124-148. The essay was written in 1987.

45 I make a distinction here between "ambivalent" as "simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings
(as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action" versus "ambiguous" as "doubtful or
uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness."

46 Victor Burgin, "The End of Art Theory," The End ofArt Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity (London:
Macmillan, 1986), 174; as cited in Solomon-Godeau, 145. "In contemporary capitalism, in the society of
the simulacrum, the market is 'behind' nothing, it is in everything. It is thus that in a society where the
commodification of art has progressed apace with the aestheticisation of the commodity, there has evolved
a universal rhetoric of the aesthetic in which commerce and inspiration, profit and poetry, may rapturously
entwine."









within the institution, while realizing one's complicity with that same system. In this

way the word "collaboration" appends a supplementary definition, one that refuses to

limit itself only to intentional, voluntary practices. Lawler's comment on art operates

within this multivalent matrix.

Art is part and parcel of a cumulative and collective enterprise viewed as seen fit by
the prevailing culture. A work of art is produced by many different things. It isn't
just the result of an unencumbered creative act. It's always the case that what is
allowed to be seen and understood is part of what produces the work. And art is
always a collaboration with what came before you and what comes after you.47

Lawler has collaborated with various artists throughout her career, including,

Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Sol LeWitt and Allan McCollum. Furthermore, her

photographs of arrangements can also be seen as collaborations with an art history

preceding her and concurrent with her. The next chapter analyzes these collaborations

and the ways they unfold into a discourse of power through the acts of selection and

display.





















47 Crimp, "Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp,"
unpaginated.














CHAPTER 3
SELECTION, PRESENTATION AND DISPLAY

"An Open Economy of Signs"

Lawler's photographs are not snapshots; they are carefully composed. They signify

through the process of captured juxtapositions, croppings and displacements. The forms

of the photographs echo the enframed content. The viewer thus encounters dense,

multivalent works. The subject matter of the photographs often point to hierarchical

divisions within the institution of art. Lawler re-presents these divisions through the

formal techniques of decentering and repositioning. For example, a photograph in the

second section of "An Arrangement of Pictures," Arranged by Claire Vincent at the

Metropolitan Museum ofArt, New York City, 1982 (Figure 5), displaces the sculptural

object, a marble representation of the Imperial Prince and his dog by the artist Jean-

Baptiste Carpeaux, to the margins of the frame. The accompanying didactics, including

the descriptive label and interpretive text, fill the center of the picture. The composition,

as much as the visual subject, refers to the hierarchical importance of the artist's name to

the institution of art granted primary position on a wall label. The usually overlooked

supplementary material of the museum apparatus now replaces the art object in

significance. By presenting the written text more prominently than the art object proper,

Lawler calls attention to the use within museum practice of the text as a frame mediating

the viewer's knowledge of the object. Such "mechanisms of legitimacy" thread the









viewer through the apparatus of the exhibition, justifying the object, albeit on a

"preconscious level."1

This exercise repeats throughout Lawler's photographic practice. Her photographs

re-position the spectator's view of artworks, carefully directing attention to the objects,

traditions, and hierarchies that need to be asserted, challenged and sometimes inverted.

Lawler's images are not mimetic reflections of particular settings, but rather conscious

productions of new relationships that have hitherto been overlooked. And although

Lawler does not manipulate the found situations or scenes she photographs, her choices

are located in the meticulous process of selection that drives her practice.

This point is executed effectively in the last group of photographs exhibited in "An

Arrangement of Pictures," which featured Lawler's arrangements of artworks. The

photographs document multiple arrangements of works by different artists, including

Jenny Holzer, Sherrie Levine, Roy Lichtenstein, Allan McCollum, Peter Nadin and Andy

Warhol (Figures 6-10). With this installation Lawler positions herself as designer,

arranger, and photographer. These photographs point to the act of selection necessary to

exhibit, collect and even produce art. The works foreground the viewer/collector's

inexplicable gravitational pull towards an object as determined by aesthetic choices. Set

against different colored backgrounds and thrown into a series of relationships with other

artworks, the supposedly autonomous object loses any inherent essence given it by

modernist rhetoric. In turn, the power of aesthetic selection is spotlighted as a

determining influence on meaning. The production of meaning is literalized not only

through the relationships of the works to each other, but also through the actual design of


1 Therese Lichtenstein, "Louise Lawler," Arts Magazine (February 1983), 5.









their presentation. The alternating colored backgrounds, along with the secondary order

of matting and size, affect the visual reading of the images. This is most readily seen in

the contrast between two arrangements of copies of Eliot Porter photographs by Levine in

(Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black (Figure 8) and (Jenny Holzer and Other

Artists) Kelly Green (Figure 9). The mat sizes of these works are noticeably enlarged

from Black to Kelly Green. The colored backgrounds indirectly reference the infamous

"white cube" of modern art while also implicating the supplementary design elements of

an exhibition. Lawler also links this arrangement to the display of objects meant for sale,

or what is known as "product shots." Like a window in a retail shop, each photo-

arrangement becomes a stage on which to rehearse the display of objects.

Lawler consistently demonstrates a concern for the contiguous relationship,

exploring the variable results of juxtapositions like a curator. The words, "contiguous"

and "contingent," summon many of the issues at the heart of Lawler's practice. They

imply that the production of the artwork is dependent on the movement of the object

through various sites. All the locations and relationships outside the studio affect the

discrete object. Lawler's practice is fundamentally mobile, articulating the reciprocal

power of the object and its context. John C. Welchman, addressing the issue of the

"frame" in modern art history, declares the practice of "institutional critique" to be so

thoroughly contextual that it becomes "a kind of social formalism."2 Although a model

of contextualism is axiomatic to Lawler's practice, it is a model of contextualism with

dissolvable walls, borders, and margins. Rather than naming a particular site that

centralizes meaning, signification circulates through multiple sites. As a result, the art

2 John C. Welchman, "In and around the 'Second Frame'," The Rhetoric of the Frame: Essays on the
Boundaries of the Artwork, ed. Paul Duro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 220-221.










object both undergoes and exercises power in its mobility.3 Kate Linker describes this

model of context as "boundless: its margins are always eroded by the artwork's

displacement and reinscription in other contexts, by a rhythm of decontextualization and

recontextualization that forms the proper historicityy' of the work." She calls this "an

open economy of signs."4 Lawler plays the abstract nature of the sign against its concrete

forms, unfolding the contingencies of value as a set of dynamic, mobile

interrelationships.

In addition, the works from Lawler's arrangements depend on each other for

meaning within a historical genealogy. At a time when the practice of history was

quickly being buried, Lawler recognized the role played by the history of art in the

formulation of contemporary art. Rather than irony, the works function through

collaboration as a recognition of the artist's relationship to her own history ("And art is

always a collaboration with what came before you and what comes after you"), instead of

a juxtaposition by violence.5 The inclusion of Warhol and Lichtenstein in Lawler's


3 This idea is indebted to Michel Foucault. Po\ c i is employed and exercised through a net-like
organization. And not only do individuals circulate between its threads; they are always in the positions of
simultaneously undergoing and exercising this power." Foucault, "Two Lectures, Power/Knowledge:
Selected Interviews and Other Ti i,,i 1972-1977 (New York: Random House, 1980), 98.

4 Kate Linker, "Rites of Exchange," Artforum (November 1986), 99.

5 I reference several strains of art production in the 1980s and their relation to models of history. One strain
is represented by David Salle's work. David Salle, in conversation with Robert Rosenblum, responds to
Rosenblum's assertion that his practice of appropriating imagery is one of "collision," "unnerving contrast"
by stating: "He [the poet Paul Muldoon] was actually citing Dr. Johnson, who described metaphysical
poetry as heterogeneous subjects yoked together through violence. That's my church; sign me up." "David
Salle talks to Robert Rosenblum," Artforum (March 2003), 75. Hal Foster's essays from the 1980s (and
collected later in the book Recodings) are probably the most incisive and critical account of this model of
history. Foster writes in "Against Pluralism," 17: "Our new art tends to assume historical forms-out of
context and reified. Parodic or straight, these quotations plead for the importance, even the traditional
status, of the new art. In certain quarters this is seen as a 'return to history'; but it is in fact a profoundly
ahistorical enterprise, and the result is often 'aesthetic pleasure as false consciousness, or vice versa'.... To
see other periods as mirrors of our own is to turn history into narcissism; to see other styles as open to our
own is to turn history into a dream. But such is the dream of the pluralist: he seems to sleepwalk in the
museum."









arrangements contrasts the use of historical styles sampled by her contemporaries David

Salle and Julian Schnabel and their stylistic pastiche. Lawler traces the roots of current

art practices of appropriation and text-based art to Pop art. Disavowing the myth of

originality, Lawler grounds the use of appropriated imagery culled from mass culture as

directly indebted to the history of Pop art. In contrast to an anxiety of influence, Lawler's

art continually re-inscribes itself within its own history, neither destroying its

predecessors nor using history artificially as a stylistic tool.

With these arrangements Lawler employs the dialectic of decoration within

modernist discourse already mapped out in her photographs of arrangements of other

people's collections. Her interest in the juxtaposition of art and decoration seeks to

unearth and explore the hidden, repressed history of the decorative within modernism,

which in many ways functions as the Other to modernism. Mary Anne Staniszewski

narrates the evolution of exhibition design at the Museum of Modem Art in her book, The

Power of Display. Relevant for my interests is her research on Alfred H. Barr, the

leading curator and developer of modern art in the United States. Staniszewski details

Barr's shift away from an exhibition design that treated paintings as room decor. This

was especially crucial in MoMA's first building from 1929 to 1932, a townhouse on Fifth

Avenue. As Staniszewski shows, the exhibition of art had to distinguish itself from

interior decoration, perhaps because of its architectural determination as a once

domesticated space: "In Barr's 'modem' installations, works of art were treated not as

decorative elements within an overpowering architecture but as elements within an

exhibition whose aesthetic dimension took precedence over architectural and site-specific









associations."6 Exhibition design was transformed from the traditional "skied"

installation of the nineteenth-century salon, or the dense, tiered arrangement of artworks,

into an ordered system that accentuated the discrete artwork. This was accomplished by

allotting the work plenty of space on the wall and hanging it at eye level. As a result, the

viewer's sense of control and autonomy within that apparatus was also re-affirmed.

Staniszewski usefully emphasizes the power of installation design in the production of

art's meaning, and like Lawler, points to the whole installation in which the artwork is

only one element. Both foreground the position of installation as productive of the

work's signification for the viewer. A work of art in a museum or gallery setting is rarely

seen on its own. Instead the work is placed within an ideologically constructed design,

which in turn constructs a viewer through its seamless display.

On Display: The Spectacle of Art

The subject of Louise Lawler's collaboration with Allan McCollum, "For

Presentation and Display: Ideal Settings," at the Diane Brown Gallery in New York City

in 1984 were the elements of exhibition design (Figure 11). The installation showcased a

hundred black hydrocal objects used as both pedestals for artworks and for the display of

commercial articles such as jewelry. The pedestals were arranged in set patterns and

bathed in a glowing blue light. A floating image of "$200.00" doubled as both the price

of the work and the artwork itself. The image of the price activated the gallery as a site

of commercial exchange. The gallery was foregrounded as "a miniature market place of


6 Staniszewski, 66. See note 39.









specialized goods," which traded aesthetics and culture for capital. The lighting display

accentuated further the spectacle of art within capitalism and the use of aura to sell art.

The blue light and the monumentality of the empty bases create a solemn aura vital to the

success of the work. Kate Linker in her incisive review of the exhibition points to the

concept of ideal settings. These settings, which include the gallery and the museum, are

invested in perpetuating the aura of an art object in order to sustain the validity and

economic value of that object. "These 'ideal settings'-putatively the optimum arenas

for the presentation of art-are also the loci of idealism; the primacy accorded to the base

(as to the frame) phrases the terms of art's transcendence, of its detachment from the

external world."8

The function of the base, like the frame of a painting, is to demarcate the artwork

from its surroundings, both immediate (the ground) and larger (the "external world").

The base severs the artwork from its place-a point articulated by Rosalind Krauss in her

seminal essay, "Sculpture in the Expanded Field."9 The fetishization of the base allows

the work its mobility, its sitelessness, but also its entombment in the museum. Lawler

and McCollum highlight these functions of the base and its fetishization in modern art

practice, further accentuated by the hovering price tag.

By using the supplements of exhibition design, lighting and pedestals, as the central

elements of their installation, Lawler and McCollum emphasize the power of


7 Therese Lichtenstein, "Louise Lawler/Alan McCollum," Arts Magazine (December 1984), 34.

8 Kate Linker, "Allan McCollum/Louise Lawler," Artforum (January 1985), 87.

9 Rosalind Krauss, "Sculpture in the Expanded Field," The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture,
ed. Hal Foster (Seattle, Washington: Bay Press, 1983), 35.









"presentation and display" to the circulation and distribution of art. Through the

theatrical staging the otherwise ordinary hydrocal bases were consumed as "art." Rather

than just transforming the everyday object into fine art, as in the Duchampian model, the

artists tellingly point to the act of display within a nexus of aesthetic and commercial

exchange, in this case the gallery: "It is through display that material products become

objects of contemplation and enter the cycle of consumption."10 The exhibition de-

naturalizes the idealist hermetic space of the museum/gallery by actively displaying the

price of the work and the presentational tools employed to sell objects. The economic

aspect of display is quite literally put on display.

The press release for the exhibition written by Lawler and McCollum

acknowledges their attempt "to engage and include the spectator within the space of what

is virtually a three-dimensional advertisement."11 Beauty acts as a seductive tool for the

commodification of artworks and sets them into a parallel discourse of advertisement and

publicity. Throughout her work Lawler recognizes the value of beauty to the display of

art and uses it in another way discussed at the end of the chapter. Beauty returns to art

after the dematerialization of the conceptual object as an instrument of seduction and

subversion. The viewer is compelled by the design or aesthetics of the work, only to find

herself/himself faced not with transcendence but the commodification of culture.

Appropriating the strategy of advertisement, Lawler and McCollum, in effect, put the

spectacle of culture up for display.


10 Linker, "Allan McCollum/Louise Lawler," 87.

1 Dan Cameron, "Four Installations: Francesc Torres, Mierle Ukeles, Louise Lawler/Allan McCollum and
Todt," Arts Magazine (December 1984), 70.









Metaorders

Lawler's collaboration with McCollum is an example of her installation practice

sans photography, but she also gives prominence to this practice within her exhibition of

photographs. Lawler's attention to the order of things reverberates beyond the frame of a

single print. Meaning is also constructed through the actual installation of her

photographs, such as in the "An Arrangement of Pictures" exhibition. Therese

Lichtenstein, in her review of the exhibition, recognized the parallel movement between

the viewer moving through the space of the gallery and the displayed hierarchies, "from a

'first order' arrangement of actual works"-the installation of Metro Pictures artists-"to

the 'second order' photographic arrangements." She continues: "The multiple levels of

representation that Lawler explores through her arrangements and photographs of

arrangements are examined as formally analogous structures."12 Lichtenstein points out

the specific installation of three works in the second section of the exhibition representing

arrangements of art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art

that are located near the margin of the wall. One of the photographs is the image of the

Carpeaux object from the Metropolitan Museum of Art discussed above. Displaced to

the edges of the photographic frame, the sculptural group is further marginalized by its

position on the wall of the gallery. Yet, this reiteration centers Lawler's project of

selection and installation. The hierarchical orders are re-arranged, and the supplementary

support of installation design is foregrounded.


12 Lichtenstein, "Louise Lawler," 5.









Lawler's work forms a metaorder where the work exists between photography and

installation. The doubling of frames-objects and their boundless contexts-serves as a

mise en abime: the art object is continually re-inscribed within its system, and with each

context seems to almost fade. The exhibition system engages in the construction of

mobile meanings and values determined by multiple forces of intervention. Linker

succinctly describes Lawler's rhetorical use of mise en abime, or "the process of

historical reinterpretation and contextual dissolve," as both "abyssal and telescopic."13

Abyssal locates no single origin for the meaning of the artwork, instead the artwork

continually opens, unfolds backwards, sideways in history. Telescopic, on the other

hand, characterizes the act of magnification performed by Lawler's works, demonstrated

in the focus on secondary materials and hierarchical divisions, which otherwise appear

"natural."

The mobility of the object is echoed by the fluidity of Lawler's artistic practice.

She refuses to be anchored to any one single medium. Even in the exhibition of her

photographs, she occupies a nebulous inter-space of photography and installation art.

The collaborations with other artists seek to avoid the glorification of the traditional

artist-creator as singular. Additionally, her artistic practice also includes the production

of matchbooks equipped with clever witticisms to disrupt the supposedly transcendental

experience of art. For example, matchbooks were produced for a group show in 1983 at

Baskerville + Watson Gallery in New York City. The matchbooks publicized the title of

the exhibition, "Borrowed Time," along with a line taken from Jean-Luc Godard's


13 Linker, "Rites of Exchange," 99.









Contempt: "Every time I hear the word culture I take out my checkbook."14 The

matchbooks act as vehicles for the circulation of art and for an exploration of the

contingent values accrued through that movement. Other materials employed by Lawler

include gift certificates, stationery and invitations, all categorized as supplementary but

necessary to the survival of the institution of art.

The invitation as an art form constitutes a significant part of Lawler's collaboration

with the artist Sherrie Levine. The works of the two artists came together under the title

A Picture Is No Substitute for Anything (1981-82), taken from a conversation between

Carl Andre and Hollis Frampton in the early 1960s.15 Lawler and Levine's project is

significant not only for the various works produced but also for its collaborative aspect

and for its location outside of the framework of any gallery system. Three of their works

took the form of invitations. Lawler and Levine created and distributed invitations for

each other's exhibitions, single-night exhibitions in mostly non-art locations. This act

trumped even the system of alternative art spaces burgeoning in New York since the

seventies. This moment also marks the transition for both artists into the official gallery

system; they were both invited to join the roster at Metro Pictures Gallery in 1982.

Levine compared their freedom during this period to "Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney

putting on a show in the backyard." She continues, "We made all the decisions-what to

show, where, when, what the announcement should look like, who the invitees would be.


14 Of course, this line was already a transformation of the infamous quip made by Hitler's culture minister
in the early 1940s: "Every time I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver." This reference opens up
further questions about the relationship of culture and politics, art and private property, culture and
capitalism.

15 Carl Andre and Hollis Frampton engaged in a series of conversations in 1962-63, which were later
published in the book 12 Dialogues: 1962-1963, ed. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh (Halifax: The Press of the
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and New York University Press, 1980).









We didn't have to ask anyone's permission."16 The unrestricted structure allowed the

artists to remain outside of the museum/gallery system, or more aptly, to manipulate that

system to present their own work in a self-determined environment.

Another invitation distributed by the artists announced a salon-like engagement at

the Union Square studio of the deceased Russian artist Dmitri Merinoff. His widow

preserved the studio intact following his death. With this invitation Lawler and Levine

seized another artist's work as their own. Yet, rather than the usual appropriation of the

finished object, it was the site of artistic creation that was displayed as the art object. The

artists presented the experience of creating art, though one rooted in the traditional

painting studio as opposed to the dark room. The experience of culture also replaced the

art object in the invitations to a performance of the ballet Swan Lake. Each artist sent out

invitations to a night of Swan Lake at Lincoln Center with the requirement that tickets be

purchased at the box office. These invites, more than the others, revealed an intended

group of receivers, their economic bracket, and by extension, the audience that patronizes

the arts. Both the event of a ballet and its location at Lincoln Center evoke a particular

class of people, socially and economically. This invitation literalized the concept of

buying the experience of art and all its connotations. Similar to Lawler's collaboration

with McCollum, the art object becomes the abstracted spectacle of culture.

A Picture Is No Substitute for Anything

Lawler and Levine also collaborated on a project for Wedge magazine, a small

cultural journal founded by Phil Mariani and Brian Wallis. The spread featured


16 "Sherrie Levine talks to Howard Singerman," Artforum (April 2003), 190.









juxtapositions of "Mondrians"-Levine's painted reproductions and Lawler's

photographic reproductions of Piet Mondrian paintings and signature canvas shapes.

With this project Lawler and Levine framed their artwork within the circulation of an art

journal, following such art historical precursors as Mel Bochner and Robert Smithson's

The Domain of the Great Bear in the magazine Art Voices (Fall 1966) and Dan Graham's

Homes for America project in Arts Magazine (December 1966-January 1967). Along

with the studio (Merinoff), the gallery, the museum, the collector's home and office, the

art object is also threaded through the print media, acknowledging that every write-up in

a feature article or exhibition review grants the artist attention and prominence within the

system of art.

The reproduction of paintings by Mondrian circulates within the much-discussed

practice of appropriation current at the time. Artists practicing and critics writing about

appropriation art found theoretical support in Roland Barthes's concept of the "ready-

formed dictionary:" "this immense dictionary from which he [the author] draws a writing

that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is

only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred.""17 Douglas Crimp in

"The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism" (1980) borrows directly from Barthes's

idea of the "infinitely deferred" to discuss a young group of photographers-peers of

Lawler-who subvert the modernist notion of originality while foregrounding the

inherent multiplicity of the medium of photography:

A group of young artists working with photography have addressed photography's
claims to originality, showing those claims for the fiction they are, showing
photography to be always a representation, always-already-seen. Their images are

17 Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author" (1968), Image, Music, Text, ed. Stephen Heath (New York:
Hill and Wang, 1977), 147.









purloined, confiscated, appropriated, stolen. In their work, the original cannot be
located, is always deferred; even the self that might have generated an original is
shown to be itself a copy.1

Photography proved for many critics the medium par excellence to reveal art history's

inextricable dependence on the genius of originality since it relies intrinsically on

multiples, a mechanical hand and, significantly, the representation of an exterior world as

already represented and thus absent, "an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred."

Levine was at the forefront of this discussion with her re-photographs of works by

famous art photographers such as Walker Evans, Edward Weston and Eliot Porter.

Lawler, on the other hand, did not often find her way into the critical texts defining the

practice of appropriation. The reason for this absence may have been that in contrast to

Richard Prince or Cindy Sherman, Lawler did not directly borrow the "look" of the

images of advertisement or film, instead she used the terms of these media to engage or

point to the way the apparatus functions. Lawler's subtle, though astute, depiction of the

circulation of the market actually hindered her circulation in that market when compared

to her peers.

In the Wedge spread each artist featured her work on alternating pages. Levine's

pages are photographic reproductions of actual paintings she made by mimicking the

abstract works that characterize Mondrian's career. By contrast, Lawler's pages in

Wedge do not remain as thoroughly consistent. Her first photograph represents an

oblique angle of a square Mondrian painting hung on a wall with an emphasis on the

painting's frame and shadow on the wall. Her next image replicates this angle, though

the crop of the print echoes the diamond-shape of Mondrian's paintings and frames. The

18 Douglas Crimp, "The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism," On the Museum 's Ruins, with
photographs by Louise Lawler (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2000), 118.









third photo reproduces two Mondrian paintings side-by-side on exhibition, one square-

shaped and the other diamond-shaped. This is followed by a diamond-shaped photograph

of an exhibition space with various works on the wall and a sculpture under a glass case.

Lastly, Lawler photographs Pablo Picasso's infamous Demoiselles d'Avignon but crops it

to concentrate on the central female figure. The photograph is bounded again within a

diamond-shaped frame.

Lawler's photographs in Wedge represent the prominence of the frame in her

practice. The frame of an artwork distinguishes what surrounds it: other artworks, the

support wall, and the "outer world." The larger frame of the exhibition space, the media

and the history of art contain the work, but also generate the work as art. Heuristically,

the works of both Lawler and Levine continue the act of doubling introduced earlier with

Lawler's attention to her own installations. The artists double the paintings of Mondrian,

and they replicate each other in their choice of Mondrian as the subject of their

collaboration. Levine stated the following about her own artistic practice, which can be

extended to this joint effort.

I wanted to make a picture which contradicted itself. I wanted to put a picture on
top of a picture so that there are times when both pictures disappear and other times
when they're both manifest; that vibration is basically what the work's about for
me-that space in the middle where there's no picture, rather an emptiness, an
oblivion.19

By doubling the artist Mondrian, Lawler and Levine make him "manifest." They

re-enunciate his name within the canon and force him into alliance with their own

project. Yet they also challenge the spectator's relationship to his works, or more so, the

relationship to copies of his works. As a departure from Benjamin's utopian belief in the


19 Molly Nesbit, "Bright Light, Big City: The '80s Without Walls," Artforum (April 2003), 248.









liberating quality of photographic reproductions, Lawler and Levine do not necessarily

celebrate the copy. Rather they present it as a vehicle of mediation. Situated within an

image-saturated society, the copy is the circulated image, the picture with which we have

an intimacy. However this picture is also already emptied out-by the "original," the

"ready-formed dictionary," the object external to the image, and ad infinitum.

How does this relate to their collaborative title, A Picture Is No Substitutefor

Anything? A picture cannot substitute the external object that it represents. Lawler and

Levine's reproductions of "original" Mondrians do not replace them, or even lessen their

value-a value continually confirmed within a capitalist economy of private property. In

turn, the same question applies to the "original" Mondrians. They too do not substitute

for anything. Despite their abstract character, the paintings do not supersede the idealism

or the absolute they attempt to restore. Read another way, "a picture is no substitute for

anything" unravels the fiction that one has access to "anything"- to a real external to the

image. A picture is just a picture, however it also serves in a productive capacity,

generating representations that mediate the world for people, constructing a shared

history, and connecting people to each other. A picture serves as an object of discourse.

The word "poignant," with its multiple definitions-"pointed, sharp, focused, affecting

and moving"-is integral to the description of Lawler's works, and one to which I will

return again.20 The last two dimensions of the word-affecting and moving- express

Lawler and Levine's Wedge project. I would argue that Lawler and Levine reproduce




20 Crimp, "Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp,"
unpaginated.









Mondrian with critical affection, not adolescent rebellion, and cloak their address to

images, copies, pictures, and reproductions with deep attachment.

This collaborative project and Lawler's practice as a whole parallel Craig Owens's

discussion of "reduplication."21 Owens borrows from linguistics the concept of repetition

and its production of signs. For instance, rather than calling a repeated syllable-the "pa"

in the word "papa"-an imitation, or "a wild sound," it forms a code and thus signifies.

Owens argues for a corresponding notion in the production of a photographic language.

The repeated syllable becomes the duplicabilityy of the photographic print":

"Photographs are but one link in a potentially endless chain of reduplication; themselves

duplicates (of both their objects and, in a sense, their negatives), they are also subject to

further duplication, either through the procedures of printing or as objects of still other

photographs."22 The spread in Wedge serves as a mise en abime for photography's

endless multiplications just as the title A Picture Is No Substitutefor Anything does for

the practice of picture-making in a general sense.

Owens invokes Robert Smithson's images and written texts to debunk the classical

relationship of object and representation. In "The Monuments of Passaic" (1967),

Smithson describes the view of a bridge as "an over-exposed picture," and he aligns it

with "photographing a photograph," and "walking on an enormous photograph."23 For




21 Craig Owens, "Photography en abyme," Beyond ,' ..... -,r,. Representation, Power, and Culture, ed. S.
Bryson, B. Kruger, L. Tillman, and J. Weinstock (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 16-30.
The essay was first published in October 5 (Summer 1978), 73-88.

22 Ibid., 26.

23 Robert Smithson, "The Monuments of Passaic," Artforum (December 1967). Also of interest to note is
the participation of Robert Smithson in the group exhibition "Earth Art," which took place on the college
campus of Cornell University, February 11-March 16, 1969. Lawler was a student at Cornell at the time,
and aided in the installation of the exhibition. It would be fruitful to think about the influence, if any, on









Smithson the photograph is not a substitute for the "real" out there. Instead, Owens

writes, "the real assumes the contingency traditionally ascribed to the copy; the landscape

appeared to him, not as Nature, but as a 'particular kind of heliotypy."'24

This is interesting to think about in relation to Lawler's photographs, which I have

already described as "abyssal" and manifest in form as mise en abime. Smithson

comments on the absence of a real, and the "image-ability" of the world around us. The

sites that Lawler photographs can be described as also just this, a photograph waiting to

be photographed. Lawler points to the collector's home as a space organized to be

looked at, to be featured, and therefore further organized within her viewfinder. The

same can be repeated about the museum, and the extended life it gathers through the

circulation of installation shots. Similarly, Lawler and McCollum in their collaboration

strove to create the gallery space as a "three-dimensional advertisement," a walk-in

picture. Owens's endless reduplication, specifically the excess repetition signified by the

prefix "re-," manifests itself in Lawler's works. Photographing the object as image,

Lawler repeats this utterance through the meticulous installation of the works, adding to

the works' signification. Furthermore, since Lawler's works function as art, they too will

be photographed, reproduced, and circulated, ad infinitum, thus fulfilling the action so

fundamental to Lawler's practice.

The word "poignant," presented above, also stands in opposition to a "certain

dryness" that could enfold Lawler's work and its reception.25 Lawler's photographs resist


Lawler's work of Smithson's notions of the site and non-site, as well as the earth artists' interest in art as a
system and not the production of singular objects.

24 Owens, 27.

25 Crimp, "Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp,"
unpaginated. Crimp prefaces the discussion of the word "poignant" with these words: "It's true that the










conceptual art's aesthetic of the "dumb document," exemplified by the work of artists

such as Ed Ruscha, Dan Graham, Robert Smithson, Joseph Kosuth, Christine Kozlov and

Douglas Huebler.26 In contrast to conceptual art's snapshots taken with an instamatic

camera, Lawler's photographs are formally composed and shot with a medium format

camera. This adds a rich texture and varied aesthetic to her work absent from the

amateur, anti-aesthetic style practiced by her contemporaries, Levine, Prince and

Sherman. Lawler's photographs cannot be evaluated within these same terms. They are

not anti-aesthetic, but actually quite beautiful. Beauty returns neither to stabilize the

image, nor throw the work into a retrograde discourse of beauty as the qualifier for "art."

In this case, beauty facilitates the transformation of picture into precious art object. As I

have argued, Lawler's work functions through successive transformations. With her

camera, she returns the object to picture, enfolding the object in its representation. The

copy, though, adheres to the codes, not of the anti-aesthetic, but of art photography.

Consciously imitating the codes of art photography-beauty as its highest value-Lawler

unravels them as constructions and thus manipulates them to transform, once again, the





easiest things to say about your photographs are of a programmatic nature-that they're about the work's
framing conditions, about the commodity structure of the art world and so forth. And this produces a
certain dryness, a reduction of the work to its function as institutional critique. While these things may be
true and accurate about your work, they don't capture something else that's crucial." Throughout this
paper I am trying to uncover, point out, circumscribe this "something else."

26 Melanie S. Marifio, "Dumb Documents: Uses of Photography in American Conceptual Art: 1959-1969,"
Dissertation, Cornell University, 2002. "If Conceptual photography was not pictorial-it was artless-neither
was it purely instrumental-it was not only a vehicle for the reproduction and dissemination of art but a
form of art in itself. Nominating as their subject matter the trivial and insignificant, the "least event,"
conveyed aptly by the flat-footed composition and careless techniques of snapshot photography, the
Conceptual document, simply put, was confoundingly dumb in appearance and purpose. Renouncing
virtually all marks of artistic craft and skill and foregrounding the values of the unaesthetic and the useless,
these works cultivated a zero-degree style of facticity pushed to the point of banality, inaugurating a
practice which, following Douglas Huebler, I am calling "dumb."









image into a precious object.27 This object now is characterized by its multiplicity, its

"image-ability." Similar to Barthes's ideas about "myth," Lawler de-mythifies the art

object with her viewfinder and then returns it to the system re-coded with new

parameters, questions, and contradictions. The deconstruction of the precious object of

art occurs through its re-presentation, its reduplication. The object is de-naturalized, and

in the process the spectator becomes aware of her/his position. The precious object lures

the viewer into the picture, but also stutters any easy positionality. With her

photographic installations, she consistently draws a circle around her work by

emphasizing the process of selection within the frame and then re-affirming that selection

in her meticulous presentations. Thus the viewer cannot limit her/his reading of the work

to the single print but rather is prompted to recognize the meaning generated by the

relationships of the works to each other and through their presentation. In this way,

Lawler relies on an embodied viewer in the heuristic process. Looking and knowing are

not denied or completely jettisoned. Lawler recognizes her work as a visual practice,

albeit one that requires a body in movement. In "An Arrangement of Pictures" the

viewer moves through the hierarchical orders described above-from "original" to

copy-and within hierarchies-object and supplement. In "Presentation and Display"

the spectator walks into a tableau. Movement governs the viewer's interpretation of the

work, an echo of the object's fluidity through borderless contexts and dissolvable walls.

But who is this body? With the Swan Lake invitations Lawler began to investigate the

class status of art patrons. In the next chapter I explore the gendered and sexed subject

27 This discussion of art photography is indebted to Abigail Solomon-Godeau's text on art photography in
"Photography After Art Photography," ArtAfter Modernism, 75-85. Additionally her discussion of James
Welling's photographic work influenced my readings of Lawler, "Playing in the Field of the Image,"
Photography at the Dock, 86-102.






48


constituted in and through representations of art and Lawler's stake in exposing art

history's patriarchal traditions. The elision of looking and reading, seeing and knowing,

is de-stabilized, and as a result these unconscious practices become conscious.















CHAPTER 4
THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN EMBODIED SUBJECT

But Lawler can also be differentiated from these artists, for rather than situate
institutional power in a centralized building (such as a museum) or a powerful elite
which can be named, she locates it instead in a systemized set ofpresentational
procedures which name, situate, centralize.
Andrea Fraser1

Sexuality in the Field of Vision

In 1984, Kate Linker and Jane Weinstock curated an exhibition at the New

Museum of Contemporary Art entitled "Difference: On Representation and Sexuality."

The exhibition tapped into the contemporary interest, shared by art historians, art makers,

and cultural theorists, in psychoanalysis and its implications for representation. Jacques

Lacan's formulations of sexual difference as dependent on the visual field were of

primary concern. The curators selected works of art that engaged with the "terrain

triangulated by the terms sexuality, meaning, and language."2 An essay by Jacqueline

Rose, who had already played a crucial role in providing a methodology for reading art

and film through the lens of psychoanalysis, was featured in the catalogue.3 Rose's essay

employs Sigmund Freud's text on Leonardo da Vinci as a point of departure for art

historical studies of sexual difference. She begins with Freud's complaints about a

1 Fraser, 124.

2 Kate Linker, Fonl\ .id" Difference: On Representation and Sexuality, exhibition catalogue, (New York:
The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984), 5.

3 The two most influential publications by Rose are Feminine Sexuality. Jacques Lacan and the ecole
freudienne (1982), co-authored with Juliet Mitchell, and Sexuality in the Field of Vision (1986). The title
of the latter book and the essay written for the "Difference" exhibition share the same title. Jacqueline
Rose, "Sexuality in the Field of Vision," Difference: On Representation and Sexuality, 31-33, reprinted in
Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London: Verso, 1986), 225-233. My citations are from the reprint.









particular drawing, purportedly by Leonardo (only part of which can be attributed to

him), of a man and woman copulating. Rose expands on a footnote by Freud that

ascribes the failure of the drawing to the problem of sexuality and representation, using it

as an introduction to her own thoughts about the drawing: "The uncertain sexual identity

muddles the plane of the image so that the spectator does not know where she or he

stands in relationship to the picture. A confusion at the level of sexuality brings with it a

disturbance of the visual field."4 Rose situates sexual difference not in what is seen, but

in the subjectivity of the viewer, "in the relationship between what is looked at and the

developing sexual knowledge of the child."5 The moment when the boy and girl discover

difference through the visual discovery of each other's biological make-up epitomizes

this model.

According to Rose, art represents the process of looking and the delayed act of

becoming inherent to psychoanalytic notions of sexual difference. Insofar as it

highlights "moments of disturbed visual representation," art can unhinge the dialogic

relationship of looking and knowing. Rose argues that the unconscious and its

accompanying desires disrupt individual identity. Desire leads to "fantasy," which often

involves a "staging," or a narrative moment, such as when the boy and girl discover the

distinctiveness of each other's genitals. What emerges from this moment is a

materialization in the visual field and its subsequent fracture. The fantasy reveals the

individual's apriori conception, the stabilization of her/his own identity. Art draws on

these fantasies and critically re-circulates them. As such, they are established as sites of


4 Ibid., 226.

5 Ibid., 227.









revision of the un/fixed nature of sexuality. Crucial to the connection Rose establishes

between psychoanalysis and art production is this repetition of the fantasy or "staged

event": "The encounter between psychoanalysis and artistic practice is therefore staged,

but only insofar as that staging has already taken place. It is an encounter which draws

its strength from that repetition, working like a memory trace of something we have been

through before."6 Rose thus diverts attention away from questions of originality or

authenticity within the context of art, directing it instead to the way art circulates in an

already formed system. But she shows that sometimes art circulates in that system in an

unseen or buried manner. This is especially true with "repetition": "repetition as

insistence, that is, as the constant pressure of something hidden but not forgotten."

This idea of "repetition as insistence" leads Rose to focus on the prominence that

Lacan's texts place on language, and on the idea of meaning as constructed from the

interconnectedness of language, rather than from discrete units. The field of language

produces meaning through the relationship of signs: "its truth belongs to that movement

and not to some prior reference existing outside its domain."8 Rose emphasizes what she

sees as the intricate relationship between language and sexual difference. Both are shown

to exercise power through their ability to control and generate normative behavior. They

are also posited as sharing the ability to shift and undo all psychic and ideological

practices. Rose criticizes literary or artistic practices that adopt psychoanalytic theory but

do not account for the centrality of sexuality. She targets the modernist discourse of



6 Ibid., 228.

Ibid.

8Ibid.









purity, as well as postmodernism's employment of allegory. In lieu of these texts, she

insists on an artistic practice that accounts for both what is seen and the visual field in

which the object is seen-the chain that constructs meaning. Solomon-Godeau, in

"Reconstructing Documentary" (1986), argues that "the problem confronting any

genuinely radical cultural production is not simply a matter of transforming existing

forms through the insertion of some new politicized content or subject matter, but rather

to intervene on the level of the forms themselves, to disrupt what the forms put in place."9

Indeed, art informed by feminism demands more than an ideological scrutiny of the

image and what its signifier conveys. It demands an interrogation of how the artwork

creates meaning within a field of vision divided by sexuality, as well as how it

contributes to the continual fixing and unfixing of sexual identity.

The Institutional and the Everyday

The central themes articulated in Craig Owens's "The Discourse of Others:

Feminists and Postmodernism" (1983) overlap with Rose's text in many ways.10 Owens

calls for a re-view of feminism and postmodernism, and for an account of the ways in

which the parallel critiques of patriarchy and representation mounted by these two

formations intersect and enhance each other. At the same time, he refuses to collapse

feminism and postmodernism, challenging the disavowal of sexuality in both modernism

and postmodernism. "The Discourse of Others" openly criticizes art critics and

philosophers who turn a "blind eye" to gender in their writings. Owens singles out

Benjamin H. D. Buchloh's "Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in



9 Solomon-Godeau, "Reconstructing Documentary" (1986), Photography at the Dock, 189.

10 Craig Owens, "The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism," The Anti-Aesthetic, 57-77.









Contemporary Art" (1982), which chronicles the allegorical trope within contemporary

art practice and identifies it as an offspring of the Dada movement.1 Whereas Buchloh

argues that contemporary feminist artists are the inheritors of this lineage, Owens

opposes this "distinctly male genealogy" and criticizes the absence of any mention of

gender. Owens insists that the artworks be read through the filter of sexual difference,

and not just through the political ideology of mass culture.

Parallel to Rose's thesis, Owens throws into crisis Buchloh's consistent but

unconscious use of words aligned with vision, such as "transparent," "observable," and

"unveil," and asks the important question: "But what does it mean to claim that these

artists render the invisible visible, especially in a culture in which visibility is always on

the side of the male, invisibility on the side of the female?"12 This question challenges

vision, not just as an index of sexual difference, but also as an indicator of mastery and

consequently masculinity. There is a pervasive tension in Lawler's work that tightens

and pulls around the problematic of vision and presents objects as administrators of

patriarchal values. Lawler's artistic practice as a whole remains unstable. She challenges

the viewers of her work, placing them in the position of critical reader through her refusal

of traditional materialization, displacement of the visual objects, and problematization of

visual pleasure in art. But before I explore this dimension of Lawler's work let us look

more closely at Buchloh's evaluation of Lawler's place in art history.

In "Allegorical Procedures" Buchloh employs Lawler's exhibition at Artists Space

from 1978 as a linch-pin between a largely male artworld and the increased presence of


1 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, "Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art,"
Artforum (September 1982), 43-56.
12 Owens, 72.









female artists.13 Buchloh locates Lawler as "following" or continuing the "situational

esthetics" of Michael Asher, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Dan Graham, Hans

Haacke, and Lawrence Weiner. In the mid-sixties and early seventies, according to

Buchloh, these artists explored the institutional framework problematized by the

Duchampian readymade, and placed the very structure of the object under scrutiny. But

Buchloh also associates Lawler with a group of artists that sought to probe "the

ideological discourses outside of that framework [the institutions of Modernism]...where

the languages of television, advertising, and photography, and the ideology of 'everyday'

life, were subjected to formal and linguistic operations."14 Along with Lawler, this group

included Dara Bimbaum, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, and Martha

Rosler. The placement of Lawler's work between, and yet among, these diverse groups

of artists resonates to this day, as it continues to occupy both institutional and "everyday"

sites. Lawler mobilizes both the structures of art and the media to explore how art is

read, and how this reading contributes to art's value. At the same time there are

differences between her practice and the practices of those with whom she is grouped.

Significantly, Lawler's engagement with the construction of the subject in art, a gendered

and sexed subject, is missing from the work of the male artists that immediately

"precede" her. Yet Lawler's work is also distinct from that of contemporary female

artists insofar as it appropriates the strategies of the media while not completely

appropriating its "look."



13 Buchloh, 48. To be fair, Buchloh pairs the Lawler exhibition with Michael Asher's 1979 exhibition at the
Art Institute of Chicago as the prefiguration of "contemporary allegorical investigations," but only goes on
to describe the Lawler exhibition.
14 Ibid., 48.









Buchloh cites a group exhibition in 1978 in which Lawler took part (Figure 12).

The exhibition, staged at Artists Space, also featured the work of Adrian Piper, Cindy

Sherman and Christopher D'Arcangelo. Lawler installed a site-specific piece in the

gallery and served as the graphic designer for the exhibition. Her designs included the

cover of the catalogue and an advertising poster. For the installation, Lawler

appropriated a painting of a racehorse borrowed from the New York Aqueduct Race

Track. The painting, made in 1824, was hung on a wall that contained both windows and

a door into the neighboring room. Yet, contrary to common exhibition practice, the

painting was positioned over the windows, rather than on the white wall. Two theatrical

spotlights were placed above the canvas. The lights did not simply present the pictorial

object; instead, one was directed at the viewer while the other highlighted the room. The

viewer's ability to see the painting was thus obstructed. At the same time, the spotlight

cast shadows of the gallery space and of the visitors to the exhibition onto the facade of

the building across the street. As such, Lawler's installation was fully self-reflexive,

employing the central elements of the exhibition as the subject of the work. Using lights

as the main focus of the installation, Lawler features the supplementary "elements of an

exhibition" as the exhibition itself.

To further situate Lawler's practice within its history, and draw contrasts, it is

beneficial to compare this installation with a similar exhibition by Daniel Buren, "Within

and Beyond the Frame," staged at the John Weber Gallery in New York in 1973.15 Both

installations punctuate the exhibition space with the exterior space of the street, while

also, in effect, presenting the "frame" of the gallery. Constructed in situ Buren's

15 I relied on Guy Lelong's description of Buren's exhibition to draw comparisons to Lawler's work. Guy
Lelong, Daniel Buren, trans. David Radzinowicz (Paris, France: Flammarion, 2002), 51-61.









exhibition featured nineteen striped black and white pieces of fabric that hung both inside

and outside the gallery space. The fabric was stretched along a cable with nine pieces in

the interior of the gallery, nine on the exterior stretching across the street, and one piece

located centrally between the inside and outside. In its construction, Buren threw into

question the symbolic frame of the gallery, while also emphasizing the gallery's material

space. Buren designed the fabric pieces to echo elements of the gallery, such as the size

of the windows, the space between the windows and the depth of the room. Additionally,

the arrangement re-affirmed the complementary non-space outside the gallery. The

expanse of the street determined the number of fabric pieces in the show.

Utilizing his signature elements of prefabricated striped cloths and the actual body

of the site, Buren highlighted the dependent relationship between the internal and

external space of the art institution. In addition, his work served to advertise both the

individual exhibition and the larger gallery space, which lacked any nominative street

sign. Buren's art in the seventies called attention to the role of the museum/gallery as the

frame empowering art. This move deflected significance away from the autonomous

object of art to which modernism gave primary value. In its place, the space of exhibition

is highlighted and recognized as a determinant of art's aesthetic, economic and mystical

status.16 In "Within and Beyond the Frame" the spectator is prompted to reflect on the

relationship of the work to the architectural and institutional surround rather than isolate,

or "contemplate," the work of art separately from its support. Furthermore, the sanctity

of the interior functions to preserve and protect the art object, which is in striking contrast

to the same object located outside and left to be weathered by the natural elements.


16 Daniel Buren, "The Function of the Museum," 5 Texts (New York: The Jack Weber Gallery, 1973), 58-
61.









Lawler's installation from 1978 plays with similar notions of frames-

interior/exterior-and also diminishes the visual impact of the actual object. Not only the

location but also the very make-up of the work of art is thrown into question. The work

might be located in the appropriated painting, or it might be made up of the theatrical

light arrangement.17 Pushing beyond Buren's emphasis on the architectural space of the

museum/gallery as a material and symbolic container, Lawler highlights the spectator's

role as yet another site of power by literally inscribing the body of the spectator into the

work in the form of shadows. But Lawler's emphasis on the corporeal as a contrast to the

disembodiment of modernism still generates a non-gendered and non-sexed body.

Throughout her work, whether it be in the medium of photography, the practice of

installations, or the production of layout and graphic design, Lawler addresses the

subjective in the production and reception of art. She marks the gendered and sexed

subject, while simultaneously distancing herself from and critiquing the masculine cult of

the artist-creator as Romantic hero, exemplified by contemporary figures such as Joseph

Beuys and Julian Schnabel. But Lawler also separates her work from that of other artists

who practice institutional critique. "Rather than situate institutional power in a

centralized building (such as a museum) or a powerful elite which can be named,"

Andrea Fraser has written about her work, Lawler "locates it instead in a systematized set

of presentational procedures which name, situate, centralize."18 Indeed, Lawler has

consistently refused to allow her work to be reduced to simplified, non-ambiguous


1 Foster, in "Subversive Signs," Recodings, 105, suggests that Lawler's use of the racehorse painting might
be intended to invoke the idea of galleries as "stables": "Are not art world and racetrack alike based on a
closed system of training and grooming, of handicapping and betting, of investment, competition and
auction? After all we do call galleries 'stables'."

18 Fraser, 124.









meanings. She has done this by ensuring that the mobility of her artwork, whether

original or copy, functions like a trace.

Privilege of the Senses

For her first solo exhibition "A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture" at the

Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California, in 1979, Lawler "screened" the film The

Misfits (1961). Her interest in this film came primarily from the emotional aura that was

caused by the death of the three main actors-Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and

Montgomery Clift-in the years following the completion of the film. Lawler continued

this project in New York throughout the years, each time "showing" a different film.19

Lawler has discussed this work with Douglas Crimp:

I was interested in what it's like being part of an audience for something, whether
you're alone looking at a book, in a gallery surrounded by other people looking at
the same picture as you, or in that particularly passive situation of sitting in the
dark, eyes glued to the screen, allowing yourself to laugh more when others do. It
was important to me that everything proceeds normally, but there would be a single
difference, which was announced: "A movie will be shown without the picture."
You weren't told what the movie was.20

Lawler pursues the experience of art outside the body of the artist, in this case, the

experience of being part of an audience. Authority is displaced from the artist to the

audience in a Barthesian manner. As a result, the viewer relates foremost to the

experience of a group. But it is an experience marked by a visuality that has been

inexplicably removed. The reading of this exhibition is multifarious, dependent not on

the singularity of the artist but on that of each person in the audience. Lawler disrupts the

film-going experience in a Brechtian manner to confront the spectator with her/his


19 Other films shown included The Hustler and What's Opera, Doc?.
20 Crimp, "Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp,"
unpaginated.









dependence on the mastery of vision when attendant to film-going, and by extension an

art exhibition. Taking Jean-Luc Godard's practice of rupturing the synchronization of the

visual image with the soundtrack to one of its logical conclusions, Lawler completely

jettisons the visual image. The spectator is now offered the experience of the film only

through the aural track. As such, Lawler challenges the normative dialogic relationship

between seeing and knowing by turning the "viewer" into the "listener." Here the

influence of writers such as Luce Irigaray on Lawler's artistic practice is evident.21

Irigaray's writings have sought to reinscribe the "feminine" into the phallocentric model

of psychoanalysis. The feminine has taken the form of the maternal in many instances of

her work, with the female body functioning as metaphor. Relevant to Lawler's art

practice is Irigaray's commentary on the relationship between the visual and the

masculine:

Investment in the look is not privileged in women as in men. More than other
senses, the eye objectifies and masters. It sets at a distance, and maintains a
distance. In our culture the predominance of the look over smell, taste, touch, and
hearing has brought about an impoverishment of bodily relations. The moment the
look dominates, the body loses its materiality.22

In Lawler's "A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture," the viewer sits in a

dark theater marked by the absence of any overdetermining fixed line of vision. She or

he is left only to listen and to feel the discomfort that results from that absence. Hence

the viewer becomes doubly aware of other bodies besides her/his own, as the

21 Sherrie Levine, a peer and collaborator of Lawler, has commented on the influence of continental theory
in "Sherrie Levine talks to Howard Singerman," 191. "After the "Pictures" show in 1977, I began reading
Continental theory, which the writers I knew were reading. I was never particularly interested in analytic
philosophy, but this stuff really spoke to me, especially the psychoanalytic theory. The new feminists
wanted to trouble the idea of the primacy of the visual over the other senses. They were interested in
pleasure and humor." Time and space do not allow me to examine Lawler's work through her use of
humor as a strategy to dislocate the spectator, especially in the texts accompanying her photographs.

22 Luce Irigaray quoted in Owens, "The Discourse of Others," 70.









"impoverishment of bodily relations" to which Irigaray refers is accentuated. Yet with

the screening of The Misfits, the first of the films featured in "A Movie Will Be Shown,"

a number of factors have to be considered. First, The Misfits was a movie that was

already made, already seen, and thus already encoded with its own history-a history

encompassing not only the film's stars but also its screenwriter, Arthur Miller. The

viewer brings to a cult film such as The Misfits an array of associations, producing an

experience of sameness with difference-an experience similar to what Jacqueline Rose

described above as "an encounter which draws its strength from that repetition, working

like a memory trace of something we have been through before." A shadow of images

materializes through the experience of "watching" something not there but already seen.

Owens reads Lawler's choice of The Misfits through the body of Marilyn Monroe.

The latter functions as an archetypal site of male desire and therefore its absence-"a

movie will be shown without the picture"-serves to disavow pleasure: "a pleasure that

has been linked with the masculine perversions voyeurism and scopophilia."24 Lawler

displaces the scopic object of Marilyn Monroe, or what Laura Mulvey has described as

the "to-be-looked-at-ness" of women.25 On the other hand, Monroe also became famous

through the use of her voice. Her contrived, soft, uncertain, breathy voice further added

to her status as "the archetypal image of feminine desirability." Though Lawler

"destroyed" the pleasure accorded the scopic image, another pleasure emerges from




24 Owens, 73.

25 Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Art After Modernism, 361-373. Reprinted from
Screen 16, no. 3 (Autumn 1975). It is interesting to note that Lawler, who worked as photo editor forArt
After Modernism (along with Wallis), paired the first page of Mulvey's essay with a still of Marilyn
Monroe from How to Marry a Millionaire.









Monroe's voice, complicating the terms "image," "pleasure," and "desire" as derived

singularly from vision.

Amelia Jones, in "Postfeminism, Feminist Pleasures, and Embodied Theories of

Art"(1993), replies directly to Mulvey's renowned essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative

Cinema" (1975).26 Jones criticizes Mulvey's theorization of pleasure as manifested in the

objectification of woman in narrative cinema and the desire for pleasure's destruction

through the analysis, or problematization, of woman as scopic object. In place of this

view, Jones responds with a theorization of an embodied subject, which does not separate

"embodied pleasure from so-called theory."27 Jones's text is useful for two reasons. First,

it addresses the type of embodiment engaged by Lawler in "A Movie Will be Shown

Without a Picture" through the complication of pleasure derived from Marilyn Monroe's

voice, not only her spectral image. Second, Jones accuses Mulvey of continuing to

circulate within a masculine modernist discourse that is proscriptive of pleasure at the

expense of the female subject. In overlooking the question of female pleasure, critical

texts that privilege so-called postfeminist art for its refusal of the desiring "male gaze,"

have maintained both late modernism's general refusal of pleasure and the Mulveyan

focus on male pleasure (and its prohibition) at the expense of accounting for the

possibility of desiring female viewers and artists.28 Jones's arguments provide another

feminist lens through which to read Lawler's works, especially since her works do not

focus on images of women. Such a lens accentuates the way that Lawler explores the


26 Amelia Jones, "Postfeminism, Feminist Pleasures, and Embodied Theories of Art," The Art ofArt
History: A Critical, rii.. -,, ed. Donald Preziosi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 383-395.
27 Jones, 393.

28 Jones, 394.









construction of the subject, not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of sexuality, by

evoking the desired object.

The Desiring Subject

Desire is not a word often used in reviews or essays about Lawler's work, neither

in relation to the luxurious objects or settings shown in the collector's home nor in the

provocative artworks captured in her photographs. For instance in the review of Lawler's

1985 exhibition "Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What Are We

Going to Say?" at Metro Pictures, Jeanne Silverthorne does not reference the erotic

nature of the nude statues included in the slide presentation.29 Although she comments on

the "domination" inferred by the photographs of the classical sculptures, Silverthorne

does not apply a feminist analysis to the exhibition. Andrea Fraser discusses the

exhibition in terms of Lawler's ability to evade her prescribed role as "artist," "a lasting

identity which seems to transcend ...the arbitrary exchange and circulation of esthetic

signs," but she misses the potential for a different kind of reading.30

"Slides by Night" featured a slide presentation available for viewing at night

through the window of the closed gallery. Lawler alternated slides of fruits, baseballs

and bells with her own photographs of art objects in an evocation of the slot machine.31

When the slot machine signs matched up for a jackpot, a photograph of a classical

sculpture would be shown as the "payoff." Lawler took the photographs at a plaster-cast

museum where copies of classical sculptures were manufactured. Silverthorne rightly


29 Jeanne Silverthorne, "Louise Lawler," Artforum (April 1985), 89.

30 Fraser, 128.

31 Silverthorne, 89. "Images of revolving fruit-as in a slot machine-capture the gambler's fever of art
speculation and form the work's only reference to money, albeit indirectly."









associates the presentation of the exhibition with window-shopping. As I have argued,

Lawler often employs this tactic in her presentation of art objects as if for sale, or

contained within an advertisement. This approach engages the object in a discussion of

the commodification of art, but also in the strategies of desire necessary to the circulation

of objects within the market.

The installation recalls yet another site-the peep show. When a copy of the

Barberini Faun (Objects, 1984) pops up as the "payoff," Lawler involves the viewer, not

assumed to be a male heterosexual viewer, in an "art" peep show underscored by the

closed gallery and voyeuristic night viewing (Figure 13). Legs splayed open, genitals

exposed, the Hellenistic sculpture resists a stabilization of sexuality expressed in the

relationship, established by Rose, between what is seen and the sexual knowledge of the

seer. What does it mean to be a man looking at this work? How does the work constitute

the female gaze and her pleasure? How does this work assert a viewing subject? Must

the viewer remain within a heterosexual and masculine system of vision, which

proscriptively constructs a heterosexual female subject and a homosexual male subject?

Crimp, in the introduction to On the Museum's Ruins, recalls his earlier writings on the

photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe from 1982, which at the time he believed to be a

false appropriation of style.32 In retrospect, Crimp realizes that Mapplethorpe's

photographs in effect challenge sexual difference by "troubling" the viewing male

subject:




32 Crimp, "Photographs at the End of Modernism," On the Museum's Ruins, 2-31. The essay in which he
discussed Mapplethorpe is "Appropriating Appropriation," Image Scavengers: Photography (Philadelphia:
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, 1982). Reprinted in On the Museum's Ruins,
126-137.









What is occluded by the institution's emphasis on the subject behind representation
is more than the historical, institutional structures that fabricate the creating
subject; what is also, crucially, occluded is the gendered, sexually oriented, and
otherwise designated subject effected by, constituted in representation through,
those structures.33

As photo editor for Crimp's book, Lawler chose the Barberini Faun along with

other photographs/slides from "Slides by Night" to accompany the essays. This group of

photographs features duplicates of classical male sculptures, often in disrepair, broken or

packaged (a play on castration?). In one instance an unidentified photograph depicts two

plaster-cast statues holding what appear to be phallic stand-ins (Figure 14). In the copy

of Donatello's David, the figure grasps the top of his now broken sword, which bulges

like a male penis. Another photograph represents a male nude statue, similar to the great

dying warrior of Greek art, unusually placed facing an air vent (Figure 15). Lawler joins

the photograph with the text: "Did you see your parent of the opposite sex naked? A

chance occurrence or was there no effort to avoid being nude in your presence?" Lawler

utilizes the text to further disrupt what the spectator sees. The spectator becomes an

active reader, a participant in the work through the montage of visual image and text and

the use of a shifter ("you"). The combined picture and text "reposition the viewer" before

a traditionally classical statue. As Lawler puts it: "...I'm alluding to things that make

you comfortable and uncomfortable. Something is what you expect, but then not quite,

so where do I leave you?"34

These photographs, both from On the Museum's Ruins and "Slides by Night,"

engage with the construction of the spectator's sexuality and gender "effected by,


33 Ibid., 25.

34 Crimp, "Prominence Given, Authority Taken: An interview with Louise Lawler by Douglas Crimp,"
unpaginated.









constituted in representation," while also making visible the invisible, or the sublimated

narrative of sexuality in artistic discourses. Many of the sculptures represented are

Greco-Roman in origin, including copies ofAugustus ofPrimaporta and Laocoon. Art

historians often characterize Greek and Roman art as highly rational and value it for its

order and scientific rendering of the human anatomy. The Greco-Roman artist

conformed the body to a mathematically derived system in search of an ideal. It was a

controlled body. The refusal of pleasure is deployed as a weapon of control against "the

chaotic and unpredictable pleasures of the erotically engaged body."35 The practice of art

history, or at least traditional, canonically-taught art history, acts upon the body in a

similar way. Jones employs the writings of Pierre Bourdieu to further extend this

argument:

As sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has written of the psychic motivations encouraging
this refusal of pleasure in discourses of 'high' culture, 'the object which "insists on
being enjoyed"...neutralizes both ethical resistance and aesthetic neutralization; it
annihilates the distancing power of suspending immediate, animal attachment to the
sensible and refusing submission to the pure affect... [Only] pure pleasure-ascetic,
empty pleasure which implies the renunciation of pleasure-...is predisposed to
become a symbol of moral excellence and the work of art a test of ethical
superiority.36

What Is the Institution?

In the essay, "Sexual Difference: Both Sides of the Camera," Solomon-Godeau

recognizes the art museum as a phallocentric institution, and uses a photograph by

Lawler, Statue Before Painting, Perseus in ith the Head of Medusa, Canova, 1982 (Figure




35 Jones, 393.

36 Pierre Bourdieu quoted in Jones, 393 taken from Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the
Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1984), 489,
490, 491.









16), to exemplify this point.37 Interestingly, she is one of the few writers, along with the

critic/curator Kate Linker, to link Lawler's work with sexuality. Lawler's photograph

first appeared in October magazine in 1983, within a portfolio of her photographs,

gathered under the title "An Arrangement of Pictures." The photograph represents the

grand staircase in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City that leads to the

galleries containing "Paintings," visible in the background. A classical statue of Perseus

made by the Neo-Classical artist Antonio Canova occupies the foreground of the work.

The content and formal composition overlap in the photograph to disclose the hidden

hierarchies of museums. Perseus, a mythological hero, killed Medusa by avoiding her

fatal gaze. The story of Medusa serves as a common trope in psychoanalysis for

castration and fetishism. In this regard, it is of interest that Perseus killed Medusa by

using his shield as a mirror device, rather than looking directly at her. The built-in

references to the power of the gaze, and the lack that results from castration, return us to

the moment when the boy and girl discover their difference-the narrative moment

deployed by Rose. The formal cropping of the photograph's frame also reinforces this

reading. Perseus stands to the right of the frame, cropped at the pelvis so that all that is

visible are his legs, genitals, and the hand gripping the mighty sword that decapitated

Medusa. Beyond the statue, and to the left, is a beautiful long view of the arched

entrance to the painting gallery, accentuated by the Greco-Roman Corinthian columns

that flank the grand staircase. Both the title, Statue Before Painting, Perseus in ith the





37 Solomon-Godeau, "Sexual Difference: Both Sides of the Camera," Photography at the Dock, 256-280.
This essay accompanies an exhibition of the same name curated by Solomon-Godeau in 1987. The
photograph made by Lawler was included in the exhibition.









Head of Medusa, Canova, and the represented installation implicate the hierarchy of

painting and sculpture, as well of man and woman.38

In controlling the photographic crop-what the viewer will see-she also gives
prominence to the patriarchal values enshrined in the predominantly all-male
preserve of the art museum. Finally, in giving prominence to Perseus's sex organ
and sword, guardian of a painting collection that in many respects incarnates the
masterful gaze of the male subject, Lawler gives prominence to the hidden lines
between phallus, fetish and painting.39

Museum installations dialectically repress the sexual discourses surrounding art and

generate the patriarchal values that sustain the institution and the social relations between

the sexes.

In the photograph Sappho and Patriarch, 1984 (Figure 17), Lawler sets her

viewfinder on two sculptures within an exhibition space. A bust of a male figure sits in

the background, stern and authoritative. A female figure stands in the foreground; she

gazes down with her garment sloping dejectedly off her shoulder. She holds a lyre and

garland. Though "Sappho" is given prominence in the frame-the foreground-she

remains shadowed, literally and figuratively, by the male bust. The male bust is well lit

and clearly visible, while Sappho lingers in partial obscurity. Lawler's caption adds

another dimension to the image: "Is it the work, the location, or the stereotype that is the

institution?" With this text Lawler questions the meaning of the word "institution," in

this case, the art museum. Is an institution marked only by its physical place, by what it

houses, or is an institution its discourses? Evoking the epigraph by Fraser, is an

institution a name-the Metropolitan Museum of Art-situated in a particular building in

38 Solomon-Godeau credits Rosalyn Deutsche with this point in "Sexual Difference: Both Sides of the
Camera," 280. "As Rosalyn Deutsche has pointed out, both the title and the museum architecture Lawler
has pictured not only implicate the current heroization of painting, but conjure a shade of another
hierarchization-statue before painting, as in ladies before gentlemen."

39 Ibid., 280.









a distinct location, centralized around the collection of art? Or is it a "systematized set of

presentational procedures"-the way the art is organized, classified, made to appear

natural-thus sustaining, and continually engendering patriarchal values?

The caption, with its question form, opens a space for the viewer: "Is it the work,

the location, or the stereotype that is the institution?" The question is neither didactic nor

conclusive. Lawler's question prompts the viewer to assume the roles of both a reader

and a subject. The reader must recognize the photograph not as a mirror image, but as a

critical text-a text that simultaneously acts upon the viewer. The reader seeks out the

signification within the frame while also situating herself within the same

exhibition/display system-looking at Lawler's photographs within a museum, gallery,

journal, or art book. The work thus acts as a type of intervention into the site of art. The

art institution subjects the viewer but also constructs her. In this way, Lawler's art

attempts to generate a more critically aware art viewer, as well as a subject who is

gendered and sexed.














CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSION

Artists in the late 1960S, 70S and 80s practiced what came to be called

"institutional critique." They took up the self-critical project of modernism and applied it

to the institution of art in an attempt to deconstruct the various discourses that name art.

Louise Lawler produces art that uses the institution of art as both target and weapon. Her

photographs and presentational procedures aim to index the discourses that construct

meaning and value in art. Her rigorous examination of the art object complements her

documentation of the museum/gallery as a multivalent node of power, the rise of the

conspicuous collector, and the viewer-subject constructed in and through visual

representations. Lawler's works point to the institution of art not just as a material

construction but also as an ideological mechanism, which operates through the circulation

of vital supplementary materials and presentational positions. Lawler does not target one

medium, but rather the whole institution of art, utilizing whatever medium, material, or

object, including photographs, matchbooks, and invitations, to intervene directly in the

particular site of exhibition, both material and discursive.

In this thesis I have situated the early work of Lawler within the art historical

context of institutional critique and its relationship to modernism as defined by the

writings of art critic Clement Greenberg. I examined Lawler's artistic strategies,

specifically her attention to the power of presentation and display as instruments in the

definition and production of meaning and value for the artwork and viewer. And lastly, I

imposed a feminist reading on the work. I theorized the construction of the viewer-









subject through questions of desire and sexuality, which ultimately are employed by the

"status quo" proscriptively for its own promotion and maintenance. The writings of

Michel Foucault on the dynamics of power inflect my readings of Lawler's practice

throughout my thesis. In his texts, Foucault argues for the deployment of power as

discursive with "a net-like organization." Rather than power enacted in human relations,

Lawler interrogates the manipulation of the art object in the local context of the artworld.

Using her camera to re-present works of art in exhibition spaces, both public and

private, Lawler positions the space and the apparatus of display as the frame

overdetermining the viewer's interpretation of the art. She displaces herself as "artist" in

order to underscore the marginal systems that actively shape the discourses of art.

Lawler's art allows the viewer to consider the ways in which art is presented, housed and

sold in an attempt to unsettle her/his perceptions and ideas of art. As a result, the project

of art is activated as a thoroughly critical practice of production and interpretation.
























Figure 1. Louise Lawler, "An Arrangement of Pictures," Metro Pictures Gallery, New
York, 1982


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A,


Figure 2. Louise Lawler, Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop
at Paine Webber, Inc., 1982, cibachrome


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Figure 3. Louise Lawler, Arranged by Mera and DonaldRubell, 1982, cibachrome


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Figure 4. Louise Lawler, Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. AndMrs. Burton
Tremaine, Connecticut, 1984, cibachrome









































Figure 5. Louise Lawler, Arranged by Claire Vincent at the Metropolitan Museum of
Art, New York City, 1982, cibachrome








76




















WINNE AND OWIEU AME Y~nDO
lTI UNuy u WEN THEfY
nal TaIFnm WACp "r AIrE
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Figure 6. Louise Lawler, (Allan McCollum and Other Artists) Lemon, 1981,
cibachrome


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ar Ya a m.u. IK .
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::"i:e..v: ... :' .
i ,i !,,. i',' ''# ,.., i,: :. ii~ .. :,iii:'! ..: ,i .i", i:.,,:,, ,. ...,.o': i::;... ."' i'
NH]~~~~~~~rs Jara uriii :[ :::' .. "' -..* ,,",::" ,' :.
-"::: .: ,, .,w .. ... : ..u. *..: ,.:':.;.'::,::o :: .: L." :


Figure 7. Louise Lawler, (Holzer, Nadin and Other Artists) Baby Blue, 1981,
cibachrome































Figure 8. Louise Lawler, (Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black, 1982,
cibachrome


Figure 9. Louise Lawler, (Jenny Holzer and Other Artists) Kelly Green, 1982,
cibachrome




































Figure 10. Louise Lawler, (Andy Warhol and Other Artists) Tulip, 1982,
cibachrome









































Figure 11. Louise Lawler and Allan McCollum "For Presentation and Display: Ideal
Settings," Diane Brown Gallery, New York City, 1984



































Figure 12. Louise Lawler, Group Exhibition, Artists Space, New York City, 1978






































Figure 13. Louise Lawler, Objects, "Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your
Attention What Are We Going to Say?," Metro Pictures Gallery, New York
City, 1985







































Figure 14. Louise Lawler, "Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What
Are We Going to Say?," Metro Pictures Gallery, New York City, 1985



















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Figure 15. Louise Lawler, "Slides by Night: Now That We Have Your Attention What
Are We Going to Say?," Metro Pictures Gallery, New York City, 1985


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I
















































Figure 16. Louise Lawler, Statue Before Painting, Perseus in ih the Head of Medusa,
Canova, 1982, cibachrome






















































Is it the work, the location or the stereotype that is the institution?


Figure 17. Louise Lawler, Sappho and Patriarch, 1984, cibachrome















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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Mariola V. Alvarez received both her bachelor's and master's degree in art history

from the University of Florida. She plans to begin her doctoral studies in the fall of 2005

and will continue to study and research the art of the modern period with a special

emphasis on the history of postmodern and feminist art.