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The strength of Louise Lawler’s current show of photographic images at Metro Pictures lies in their scale and placement. “Fitting” is how I would imagine a zine or a website such as Tumblr to look if it were made three-dimensional: streamlined, cool, and a lot of white space.
Duchamp’s museum-in-a-box comes to mind, but with Lawler, the photographs on view are not images of her own art, but copies of other people’s art. Or is it not that simple? These photographs are hers after all. They are blown up to fit the wide span of a wall or, remaining framed, they can be small, a sole image in a vast zone of blank space.
Attached with adhesive, a giant vista of another gallery opens up the flat tableau of a wall. A pictorial window into a show of blue prints depicts a space as lofty as Metro Pictures', with a group of work more minimal than Lawler’s reportage of the secret quiet life of high art.
A dark brooding lump of a figure by Francis Bacon, crumpling into itself in the gold-framed canvas, is upstaged by a sculpture whose biomorphic form mirrors the body in the painting. Whose generic phallus shape is this on the smooth wood-grain table? Brancusi’s? I can’t tell, but it’s obvious that the setting is not a museum but a collector’s home or an auction house. Isn’t it?
Can you tell if the low-angled zoom into a triangular canvas by Frank Stella and a steely set of Donald Judd's takes place at the MoMA or the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Regardless, the eye welcomes the drama of perspective.
In another room, Degas’ awkward ballerina is segmented to a mere tutued pelvis as the camera crops the rest of her body out of the picture. The painter would have thought it fitting.
You’re invited to snicker at this impromptu exam in art history, but doesn’t it become clearer and clearer, despite (and maybe because of) the distortion of size and scale, that it is a history (and an art-market) dominated by the works of male artists?
“Fitting” is a smirking show, with tongue in cheek. Lawler’s critique of the art world is subtle but hits hard.
Images courtesy Metro Pictures.