Louise Lawler (born 1947) is a U.S. artist and photographer. From the late 1970s onwards, Lawler's work has focused on the presentation and marketing of artwork. Much of this work consists of photographs of other peoples' artwork and the context in which it is viewed.
Examples of Lawler's photographs include images of paintings hanging on the walls of a museum, paintings on the walls of an art collector's opulent home, artwork in the process of being installed in a gallery, and sculpture in a gallery being viewed by spectators. Along with artists like Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, Lawler is considered to be part of the Pictures Generation. Louise Lawler lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Lawler was born in Bronxville, New York. She earned a B.F.A. at Cornell University, and moved to Manhattan in 1969, where she soon took a job at the Castelli Gallery. There, she met Janelle Reiring, who would go on to co-found Metro Pictures with Helene Winer in 1980. At the time, she was making paintings, artist’s books, prints, and photographs of her own. But when she landed her first official gallery exhibition, in 1978 at Artists Space, she did not exhibit any of that work. Instead, she borrowed a small 1883 portrait of a horse from Aqueduct Race Track — it had been hanging over a Xerox machine in the offices — and mounted it on an empty wall at the gallery. To highlight her appropriation, she installed two spotlights: one above the picture and another pointed out the window, at the building next door, hinting to sidewalk passersby that there was something of note going on upstairs.
Lawler has photographed pictures and objects in collectors’ homes, in galleries, on the walls of auction houses, and off the walls, in museum storage. Along with photography, she has created conceptual and installation art. Some of her works, such as the "Book of Matches", are ephemeral and explore the passing of time, while others, such as "Helms Amendment (1963)," are expressly political. Lawler's work, in its diverse manifestations (installations, events, publications, souvenirs...) addresses or confronts prevailing systems of establishing art, taste and style.
Lawler has had one-person exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2006); Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York (2005); the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (2004); Portikus, Frankfurt (2003); and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1997). Her work has recently been featured in exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, which included her in its 1991, 2000, and 2008 biennials. Lawler's work was included in documenta 12, Kassel, Germany. Lawler has regularly presented her work in non-art contexts that employ "ordinary" means of presentation, distribution and interpretation.
Pieces by the artist are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, LACMA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate Britain, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Israel Museum, Tel Aviv; Kunsthalle Hamburg; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo; Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.
Estimated at $40,000 to $60,000, Lawler's photograph Monogram Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, New York City 1984, a photograph of a perfectly made bed with Jasper Johns's famous White Flag (1955–1958) hanging above it, sold for $125,600, a record for the artist, in 2004.