Louise Lawler

Closer than you Thought (traced), 2004/2005/2013

Printed vinyl mounted to wall

103.1 × 81.9 cm


Interested in purchasing this work?

Enquire

Additional Information

Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

photo credit: Florian Kleinefenn

Artwork
Description

Closer than You Thought (traced) is part of a larger group of ‘tracings’ works, a series Louise Lawler developed for her retrospective exhibition at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, in 2013. Traced directly from Lawler’s own characteristic photographs of museum interiors, and made in collaboration with the artist and children’s book illustrator Jon Buller, the tracings are black and white line drawings that are converted to a vector graphic and printed on a vinyl, which is adhered directly to the wall Each edition exists as an adaptable digital file that can be printed at any size. A tracing takes material form only when exhibited, and it can be destroyed and remade in a different size for its next presentation. Both ephemeral and contingent on their environment, Lawler’s tracings works extend her analysis of the aesthetic, socio-political and economic factors that play a role in the display of art.

Here she physically traces the position of art works within this interrelated web of contexts, extending the deconstructive analysis of notions of authorship and originality that Lawler initiated with her early works. Lawler takes photographs of works by other artists, displacing those work’s originality and authorial trace – which are then further mediated by the process of tracing and turning the photographs into schematic vinyl translations. Emptied of content, the tracings can be seen to function as decorative pattern, frustrating visual contemplation and, in turn, commenting on the nature of art itself and its position within the market for commodity production.

Rolling back Lawler’s layers of displacement and mediation, though, one arrives at Dan Flavin’s Monuments to V. Tatlin, a series of sculptures made from industrial fluorescent light tubes over the period 1964-1990. Parallels betweens the two artists’ practices abound: Flavin’s use of industrial materials and serial production was intended to undermine the works’ authorship and the notion of artistic originality – much like Lawler’s appropriation of other artists’ work and her use of photography as a found material. In Lawler’s photograph, Flavin’s work is seen in storage, or perhaps in the conservation department of a museum, surrounded by replacement fluorescent light tubes. The type of tube Flavin used has long since gone out of production, and his works thus have a technologically limited life expectancy – a fragility and even poignancy at odds with their industrial beginnings. In the tracing, however, Lawler returns the light tubes to their origins, transforming the photograph’s haunted quality into a repetitive, all-over composition that evokes their serial production.

About
the artist

Louise Lawler (b.1947) was born in Bronxville, New York and now lives and works in Brooklyn. She graduated from Cornell University. Since then, her innovative style grew in tandem with the booming economy of the 1980s, which was facilitating the growth of the art market, and the role of “collector”. Her work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions around Europe and the USA.

Louise Lawler’s fresh, witty yet complex oeuvre is an exploration into the domesticity of artworks, a “behind the scenes” study of their candid private lives. Despite photography being the medium she most frequently adopts, Lawler does not consider herself a photographer. As an appropriation artist, she specialises in taking nuanced photos of other people’s work. Through her images she inherently comments on the ways in which art is lived with, exhibited, stored or even ignored. By highlighting the aspects of art which one usually fails to notice, Lawler shows how the meaning of a work is shaped by numerous factors outside the four sides of its frame.

Consider Lawler’s 2002/2003 piece, appropriated simply to Nude. Removed from the gallery wall, the image depicts Gerhard Richter’s momentous Ema (Nude on a Staircase), lying prostrate on its side, pathetic and unaccompanied in a stark white corridor. The painting’s greatness has severely diminished due to its displacement, and this is Lawler's point. In no way is she condemnatory of Richter as an artist; her goal is to demonstrate the transformative power of context upon an individual piece of art.

A recurrent adjective in interviews with the artist (of which there have been very few) is ‘poignancy’. Meaning ‘pointed’, ‘sharp’, ‘focused’, ‘affecting’, ‘moving’, the word captures the gamut of her work, comprising not only its pithiness and its criticality, but also something much more difficult to speak of: its emotional timbre. A major player in the problematic field of “art-about-art”, Lawler prospers where others fall short in their heavy-handedness.

Lawler’s unique approach was stirred into existence in 1984 when she was granted full access to the Connecticut home of twentieth-century collectors Burton and Emily Tremaine. Arbiters of taste, the collection comprises more than 400 works by American and European artists. Finding treasures around every corner, Lawler captured famous pieces of art “in situ”, constantly searching for aesthetically pleasing compositions as she made her way through the house. In Living Room Corner, Arranged by Mr. & Mrs. Burton Tremaine, New York City, Robert Delaunay’s 1912 painting Le Premier Disque is hung jauntily above the television, while in front of the window, a Lichtenstein bust has been turned into a lamp. In another image, titled Monogram, Jasper Johns’ White Flag is found above a pristinely manicured bed. Beautifully executed, the juxtaposition of the painting and white sheets, lamps and bedside tables forces the viewer, on a vast scale, to consider the significance of setting.


A recurrent adjective in interviews with the artist (of which there have been very few) is ‘poignancy’. Meaning ‘pointed’, ‘sharp’, ‘focused’, ‘affecting’, ‘moving’, the word captures the gamut of her work, comprising not only its pithiness and its criticality, but also something much more difficult to speak of: its emotional timbre. A major player in the problematic field of “art-about-art”, Lawler prospers where others fall short in their heavy-handedness.

Finding treasures around every corner, Lawler captured famous pieces of art “in situ”, constantly searching for aesthetically pleasing compositions as she made her way through the house. In Living Room Corner, Arranged by Mr. & Mrs. Burton Tremaine, New York City, Robert Delaunay’s 1912 painting Le Premier Disque is hung jauntily above the television, while in front of the window, a Lichtenstein bust has been turned into a lamp.


Louise Lawler
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition