Conceptual artist Louise Lawler has long been photographing artworks and objects in museums and galleries, as well as in storage spaces, collectors’ homes, and auction houses. In so doing, she has subversively—and often humorously—shown how subjective our reception of an artwork can be. Her photographs explore the idea of appropriation by taking as their subject works by other artists. But they also show us how our understanding of art is determined by the surroundings in which we see it.
In this intriguing exhibition, Lawler gave her own work over to another artist to appropriate. The show consisted of a 2013 series, originally exhibited at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, of black-and-white tracings of Lawler’s best-known photographs. The tracings —made by Jon Buller, a children’s-book author—were turned into digital files and printed on adhesive vinyl panels of various sizes. They looked something like blown-up pages of a coloring book.
As with Lawler’s originals, these images ask us how we see a marble sculpture of Aphrodite in a museum’s storage area, a Lucio Fontana canvas overshadowed by a crystal chandelier, or a date painting by On Kawara hanging over a table set with candles in the dining room of a private home. At the same time, by reducing Lawler’s photographs to simple contour drawings, this series becomes a wonderfully shrewd commentary on art-world consumerism and the value of both the blue-chip works depicted and Lawler’s own art.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 107.