by stuart servetar
at Metro Pictures
Feb. 1-Mar. 15, 1997
Conceptual photos are so big these days its nice to see Louise Lawler weighing in again to reclaim some of her territory. Noted for inbred whip-smart pictures of high art placed within private spaces, her current exhibition (called "Paint, Wall, Pictures: Something Always Follows Something Else") features a new series that records a different kind of space transformed by art in yet another way, specifically the transformation of a Chelsea garage into Metro Pictures. These images sacrifice some of the immediate charm and narrative richness extant in the domestic scenes, but ultimately open onto a broader range of concerns. The pictures focus on found paintings and works, the accidental (or not) artistic expressions of a blue-collar space in the process of being annulled by the advent of yet another white cube showcase for high art. A stand of fir trees razed and paved over in order to erect a billboard of a stand of fir trees. The photos are restricted to capturing the space in the process of transformation. Lawler finds Color Field paintings here, geometric abstracts there, and even a bit of the Earth Room over there (Salty Fish).
Lawler, like Rubenstein, is trapped in a machine. The artist is all too aware of how hermetically sealed she is within the claustrophobic parameters of the art world and she does not turn away from it. Overlooking Central Park expresses it best- -the shades over the windows of a room that presumably would overlook the park are drawn; the view is restricted to a small Jasper Johns print hung above a hardwood desk with a dash of pigment atop it. With Pineapple/Butterscotch/Buddha, a shot from the most recent series that features a coppery brick stairwell with an Exit sign, Lawler manages to allow daylight and transcendence to creep into her work, as if to say, "Though I'm locked into this world, perhaps the way lies elsewhere".
There are bits and pieces of other series all about and some stand alone knock-outs, cf. They Have Always Wanted Me To Do This. The show also features rows of plain water glasses on glass shelves with word inscribed on each glass. They have the ultra clean look of Irving Penn's Clinique adds, but that seems about it. Far better in glass is her paperweight shot of a Flavin at the bottom of a lovely twisting staircase. It's a gorgeous tribute to the recently deceased glow-meister.
In the frou-frou room upstairs there's a sparkling new work by Carroll "Welcome to Metro" Dunham.
Metro Pictures, 519 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011