The following feature appears in the May 2017 issue of NYLON.
Museums and galleries are inherently designed to shape the viewer’s experience of the artwork on display. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, a movement of institutional critique became popular among artists who wanted to challenge these existing systems. Louise Lawler takes this effort one step further.
This spring, the American artist is being featured at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in a survey exhibition that will cover her 40-year career and spotlight over 150 of her works, including her latest, Pollyanna (adjusted to fit) distorted for the times. The show is titled “Why Pictures Now,” in reference to one of her pieces from 1981—a photograph of a matchbook printed with the eponymous phrase, propped up against an ashtray. The allusion brings Lawler’s earlier work into the present, according to curator Roxana Marcoci. “[The show] has an emphasis on the now, and it’s an exhibition that defies chronology,” she says. The installation mirrors this sentiment; the show is not displayed chronologically, but rather with loose themes grouping works together.