©2017 LOUISE LAWLER/ courtesy of the artist and subway pictures
In 1990, the editor of Artscribe magazine asked Louise Lawler to send a photo of herself as the cover of an issue of the magazine. Before that, Lawler had repeatedly refused such requests and instead submitted a photo of a parrot with its head tilted towards the camera. But this time, she agreed. On the cover of Artscribe in May 1990, a beautiful blonde woman stared at a lit cigarette between her fingers. But it was not Louis Lawler-it was actress Meryl Streep, who allowed Lawler to use her image.
Does it matter that a photo of the then two-time Oscar winner is posing as a portrait of the artist? Not that much, Lawler would argue. "Recognition may or may not be useful," she warned with white sans-serif text running through the image. She advises to be wary of images-anyone can use them to express any meaning and for any purpose.
Lawler’s recent retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art was curated by Roxana Marcoci and Kelly Sidley, and named after Lawler’s 1981 photo of a matchbox in a glass ashtray named “Why take photos now”. This sentence is printed on the matchbox as a statement rather than a question, and it is very popular now. After Lawler and her theoretically minded picture generation colleagues became popular in the 1970s and 1980s, appropriation did not completely disappear. But now, at any time since then, young and older artists re-use and reuse ready-made pictures to reflect on our own moments when we are addicted to images-photos move freely between electronic devices , And Google search can open millions of pictures in less than a second.
Since the late 1970s, Lawler has been creating works of art about art, often photographing works by brands such as Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and Jackson Pollock, which are in museums and private collections Photographed during installation during installation or while collecting dust in the storage room. Artwork may be the subject of her photos, but Lawler is also interested in the things surrounding these artworks-how they are presented, accepted and evaluated.
MAX YAWNEY/Courtesy Artist and David Lewis, New York
Like many artists in the so-called "Picture Age", including Sarah Charlesworth, Richard Prince, and Shirley Levine, Lawler cares about what happens to the image once it is released into the world . However, unlike her colleagues, she is more like a documentary director than a misappropriation artist. She attaches importance to both the form and the conceptual meaning of the work. Take Monogram (1984) as an example, it shows a Jasper Johns flag painting hanging on a collector's bed. A comparison was made between the cream-colored bed sheet and the white stripes of the canvas. However, by sewing the initials of cursive script onto smooth paper and naming the works, Lawler also compared the author (collector) of the arrangement with the producer (artist) of the painting.
Many of Lawler's photos were taken from an oblique angle-just above the floor, off to one side, and slightly below eye level. They feel that the browsing of installations on the "Contemporary Art Daily" website is out of control: the commercial or cultural framework of art, not the art itself. Taking this idea a step further is Lawler's "Adjust to Fit" series, in which her photos are stretched or squashed to meet a set of required proportions, and then printed on a sticky vinyl panel. In her wonderful MoMA exhibition, they filled the large exhibition wall side to side. These “adjusted to fit” photos were so distorted that the works of Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons and Donald Judd were among them. It's almost unrecognizable.
To complete the "picture" moment in New York, there are two exhibitions in the city dedicated to the recent work of Lawler's Photo Generation colleagues. Marian Goodman Gallery, just a few blocks from the Museum of Modern Art, Dara Birnbaum’s 6-channel video installation "Psalm 29 (30)", in 2016, solved our indifference to violence and war scenes . The five screens show tranquil, postcard-like photos of the Italian Alps; every so often, a few seconds of ground battle images are superimposed on them. The sixth screen only displays these appropriate conflict images, edited with slow fade-in and fade-out, and set to a fantastic minimalist score. Although there are explosions and bullets flying around in the video, this piece is surprisingly calm. Birnbaum said that we are so sensitive to these images that viewing them is almost like a meditation exercise.
Compared with Birnbaum's video installations, Robert Longo's recent Metro Pictures exhibition, including realistic charcoal paintings based on images from recent publications and TV shows, appears shallow. One painting extracted a photo of an immigrant on a raft from a publication of Doctors Without Borders; the other borrowed an infrared photo of a prisoner in a CIA black field. A 23-foot wide triptych, the former has the proportions of historical paintings. This kind of work should be filled with emotion, but on the contrary it seems boring.
Provided by the artist and JTT, New York
Legend has it that at a party, Lawler once lent Andy Warhol some movies, and he repaid her favor by sending out silk screen printing from her "Cow" series. Lawler's response was to hang these prints with the works of Roy Lichtenstein, Levine, and others, photograph these groupings, and designate these arranged artworks according to his own rights. In order to create his own original works, Lawler cannibalized other people's past works.
Lawler's strategy is the common strategy of today's artists. For example, even though most audiences don't know it, Rachel Harrison's performance in Grenaw Tali included 38 Harlan Faloch movies. They do not exist in the form of video or projection, but as files stored on a memory stick in Harrison's sculpture "Bear Ears" (2017), which is a purple cement block on a green wheelbarrow. Other sculptural elements in the exhibition include Andrea Fraser's essays on water, reproductions of works by Yves Klein and Robert Morris, and photographs of Marilyn Monroe's head from the Warhol archives.
This exhibition is humorous and elegant, reflecting the blurred boundary between art and life through the combination of sculptural forms and broken ready-made Rausenberg format. However, these works also have some terrible aspects. Sometimes, it feels as if they have their own lives and interest in other artworks. Therefore, it is not surprising that a work titled "Life on Mars" (2017) includes copies of exhibition catalogs from Harrison's past exhibitions and sketchbooks from the artist's studio. With this clumsy-looking sculpture, is Harrison appropriating her own work, or vice versa?
©LESLIE HEWITT/COURTESY SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO., NEW YORK
In Barbara Bloom's David Lewis exhibition, mirrors were cleverly used to make the audience seem to be part of a work of art. This elegant show uses photos of Vladimir Nabokov, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe as reflections on reflection. (Most of these images were taken by Magnum photographers.) The most touching work is "Vanity" (2017), a dressing table with a bound script on it and a round magnifying glass on the shelf. Under the glass top of the table is a photo of Joan Crawford’s Eve Arnold, who is reading the script. In Arnold’s painting, a tabletop mirror is similar to the mirror in the sculpture, reflecting Crawford’s hand through her hair; Bloom magnifies that detail (leaves the Benday point visible) and places it on Vanity’s In the real mirror. Crawford is obsessed with his own image, and there is no doubt that it is for this reason that Bloom is very interested in this photo.
The Bloom exhibition is slanted, but it feels clear compared to Leslie Hewitt's elusive Sikkema Jenkins & Co. exhibition, which brings together recent work on photo editing. In one series, the same images of two dahlias—fresh, yellow, strange rubber-like, paired with the leaves of another plant—are presented in color and black and white, and cropped in different ways . Another work RAM (2017) is characterized by an obsolete object set on a white background, and all other details around it have been deleted in Photoshop. The archive notes affixed to the lid indicate that it is a bible box-but this photo tells us more. Works like RAM are very attractive, but in the end they are too opaque to attract the audience.
Courtesy of New York Artists and Essex Street
On the other hand, the paintings of Marlon Mullen exhibited at JTT were immediately fascinating. Mullen, who is autistic, works at the Disabled Artists Center in Richmond, California, where staff provide him with art magazines and posters as the basis for his canvases. One person distilled Kerry James Marshall's work on the cover of Artforum's January 2017 issue into an interlocking circular arrangement; the other turned Nan Goldin's poster into a modernist abstract painting. In most cases, JTT gallerists were able to find Mullen's original materials, but there was one they could not find: an untitled painting that appeared to be a bust. The text below it, written laboriously in black, read "1400 BC". The original image of Mullen has been lost, and there are some unspeakable touches.
Jef Geys found a solution to picture fatigue in the exhibition on Essex Street: use bubbles to wrap your past art work so that no one can see it, and then, to make matters worse, make custom-designed shelves for these invisible works . The future owner is not allowed to disassemble Ghaith’s "bubble painting", but the Belgian artist does not want his work to be completely invisible-the tacky paintings of windmills and the version of Bruegel's scenes can still be displayed in Bubbles A glimpse of the veil under the paper. These works are reminiscent of corpses in a morgue, after an autopsy and ready for burial.
GREG CARIDEO/Courtesy Artist and Arsenal Contemporary
Are we witnessing the rise of a new generation of images? For a group of young artists, we are all possessors, constantly sharing and forwarding each other's photos online. From DIS’s stock photography projects to Jon Rafman’s original material prose films, their works explore a digital world that lives through images.
One member of this group is Tabor Robak, who recently launched a series of moving image works in the Team Gallery, which are produced using algorithms that constantly recombine digital stock images. Robak refers to these infinite variations of works as "generative animations," and his interest lies in the way companies use colors to sell products to consumers. For example, TabCorp (2017) depicts a digital animation office that is designed around the color Robak calls "Trump University Orange"; from time to time, ordinary rendered credit cards and coffee cups rain on the table.
Like all other animations, TabCorp uses the stylish appearance of pop-up ads and email communications, making it surreal and even uncomfortable. In doing so, Robak's work recreated the nightmarish feeling of infinite scrolling in Google's image search results, but it was also strangely tempting. XHow (2017) is a view of a seemingly endless corridor. Its walls and floors are made of digital sketches and twisted as they hover into the distance. This is the Internet: the rabbit hole of pictures.
Hannah Perry's photo-based dense layered work at Arsenal Contemporary also solves this endless stream of images. The pictures of eyes, palm trees, and hands are all from the Internet, and they are superimposed on each other in these screen-printed works, as well as words that suggest emotional and physical violence. "Get out of my life," one of them wrote.
The core of the show is Cry Daggers (2017), which is a video installation in the typical fashion style of this British artist, including original footage and clips from the Internet. Young women smoke marijuana and jump on the bed, while an invisible narrator contemplates text messages and viruses. The sequence is seamlessly integrated, and it is impossible to tell which Perry filmed and which she misappropriated.
©SARA CWYNAR/COURTESY FOXY Production, New York
On the Internet, which is full of memes, stock photography, and slideshows, any sense of originality is lost, and Sara Cwynar's Foxy Production show takes advantage of this. Cwynar's series of portraits of women leaning against a shaky background superimpose various cut images on the original photos, reflecting how digital images obscure any uniqueness or emotional value. The photos were taken in fiery greens, reds, and blues-a color that appeared in Jean-Luc Godard's exuberant anarchist movies of the late 1960s (and recent lifestyle Brand website).
The name of the show is taken from Cwynar's crazy edited movie "Rose Gold" (2017), which is a fascinating eight-minute article on color, starting with Apple's rose gold iPhone. Two speakers—one man, one woman—talked freely about irrelevant topics, while the photos were distorted in Photoshop, and consumer goods were discarded in reverse fast motion. The lens flashed by, making it hard to understand-this is a filmmaking in an era with too many photos.
In a bold sequence, intangible hands lift up various objects as symbols. "This is a mouse, this is a mouse," said a male narrator when the Mac computer mouse and Mickey Mouse cartoon appeared on the screen. A photo of a rose appeared, followed by the explosion of ancient gold coins. "This is a rose, this is gold," the narrator pointed out comically. Of course, all of these are real, except for each of these things—as Lawler reminds us—just an image. "What does words have to do with what?" One of Cwynar's narrators posed a question, which was not specific to anyone. Then, after a short pause: "Or pictures, for that matter."
A version of this story originally appeared on page 120 of the Fall 2017 issue of ARTnews under the heading "Around New York."
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