Louise Lawler. Pollyanna (adjusted to fit), distorted for the times. 2007/2008/2012. As adjusted for the MoMA exhibition WHY PICTURES NOW, 2017. Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures. © 2017 Louise Lawler

WHY PICTURES NOW, the first New York museum survey of the work of American artist Louise Lawler, is an exploration of her creative output, which has inspired fellow artists and cultural thinkers alike for the past four decades. The exhibition consists of a sequence of mural-scale, “adjusted to fit” images set in dynamic relation to non-linear groupings of photographs—of collectors’ homes, auction houses, and museum installations—distinctive of Lawler’s conceptual exercises. Additionally, a deceptively empty space presents black-and-white tracings of Lawler’s photographs that have been printed on vinyl and mounted directly to the wall. A display of the artist’s ephemera from the 1970s to today highlights the feminist and performative undercurrents of her art. The defiant, utterly quizzical sound piece Birdcalls (1972/81), for which the artist turned the names of well-known male artists into bird-like squawks and twitters, will be installed in the Museum’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. In foregrounding her work’s relationship to the economies of collaboration and exchange, Lawler shifts focus from the individual picture to the broader history of art. Her careful attention to artistic contexts, modes of presentation, and viewers’ receptions generates witty, affective situations that contribute to institutional transformation.

Among the most intriguing aspects of Lawler’s working process is her continuous re-presentation, reframing, or restaging in the present, a strategy through which she revisits her own images by transferring them to different formats—from photographs to paperweights, tracings, and works she calls “adjusted to fit” (images stretched or expanded to fit the location of their display). Lawler’s critical strategies of reformatting existing content not only suggest the idea that pictures can have more than one life, but underpin the intentional, relational character of her farsighted art.

Organized by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, with Kelly Sidley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.

Major support for the exhibition is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and by The Modern Women’s Fund.

Generous funding is provided by the Walton Family Foundation, David Dechman and Michel Mercure, Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté, Tracy and Gary Mezzatesta, Susan and Arthur Fleischer, Patrice and Louis Friedman, Mark Diker, and by Ann and Mel Schaffer.

Additional support is provided by the Annual Exhibition Fund with major contributions from Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Alice and Tom Tisch, Glenn and Eva Dubin, The Donald R. Mullen Family Foundation, Inc., The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Mimi and Peter Haas Fund, Brett and Daniel Sundheim, Karen and Gary Winnick, and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.

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