Louise Lawler (b.1947, New York) and Alighiero Boetti ( b.1940 - d.1994, Turin), were separated geographically and are defined by distinct artistic movements, however, they share strong links in their interest in appropriation, conceptual art and central to this viewing room, repetition. In contemporary art, the outsourcing of production and direct appropriation that removed the labor of the artist has become a mainstream mode of artistic expression. An artwork's form and meaning take shape outside the artist's hands in countless ways: in context, fabrication, tools, production. This progression is largely due to the groundbreaking ideas of artists such as Louise Lawler and Alighiero Boetti.
Alighiero Boetti's artwork is defined by the movement of Art Povera in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, which is significant for the wide range of experiments with materials and production processes beyond the traditionally separated fields of painting, sculpture, and craft. Boetti and his contemporaries used materials and conceptual approaches to challenge and disrupt the values of the commercialised contemporary gallery system. Louise Lawler is a key member of the Picture's generation of New York in the 1970's which also emerged as a critique of consumer culture, and to challenge notions of authorship, authenticity in photography and contemporary art of the time. These movements were in dialogue, and we see this directly in this viewing room with Louise Lawler's reproduction of an embroidery panel by Boetti, which was produced by local Afghan embroiderers in Kabul.
Below we present excerpts from two lead writers of the Picture's Generation and Art Povera movements, Germano Celant and Douglas Crimp, placing these two distinct movements in dialogue with each other in their desire to challenge and disrupt artistic norms.
Essay Excerpt: Arte Povera. Notes on a guerrilla war November–December by Germano Celant, 1967
The shift that has to be brought about is thus the return to limited and ancillary projects where the human being is the fulcrum and the fire of research, in replacement of the medium and the instrument. The man is the message, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan. Freedom, in the visual arts, is an all-contaminating germ. The artist refuses all labels and finds identification only with himself.
Ever since 1964, Michelangelo Pistoletto (like Andy Warhol, Enzo Mari, and Jerzy Grotowski) has thus given himself over to the problem of a freedom of language no longer connected to the system or to any kind of visual consistency; he’s concerned, instead, with ‘interior’ consistency, and in 1966 he produced a series of extremely ‘poor’ works: a Christmas manger, a cardboard well with torn canvas at its center, a showcase for clothing, a structure for conversing standing up and a structure for conversing sitting down, a table made of picture frames and paintings, a giant-sized photograph of Jasper Johns, and a mercury light. This work is committed to the registration of “the irrepeatability of every instant” (Pistoletto), and it presupposes the rejection of any and all systems and of all codified expectations. A free mode of action, unforeseeable and without restraints (in 1967, a sarcophagus, a house painted with great chromatic freedom, a sphere of compressed newspaper, a body covered with mica) and franchised to frustrate expectations, which allows Pistoletto always to straddle the borderline between art and life.
This revolutionary way of existence turns into the Reign of Terror with Boetti, Zorio, Anselmo, Piacentino, Gilardi, Prini, Merz, Kounellis, Paolini and Pascali, all of whom are artists whose modes of action pose the problem of this recovery of free self-determination.
Douglas Crimp essay excerpt: Pictures, 1979.
At the beginning of this essay, I said that it was due precisely to this kind of abandonment of the artistic medium as such that we had witnessed a break with modernism, or more precisely with what was espoused as modernism by Michael Fried. Fried's is, however, a very particular and partisan conception of modernism, one that does not, for example, allow for the inclusion of cinema ("cinema, even at its most experimental, is not a modernist art") or for the preeminently theatrical painting of surrealism. The work I have attempted to introduce here is related to a modernism conceived differently, whose roots are in the symbolist aesthetic announced by Mallarme,'4 which includes works whose dimension is literally or metaphorically temporal, and which does not seek the transcendence of the material condition of the signs through which meaning is generated. Nevertheless, it remains useful to consider recent work as having effected a break with modernism and therefore as postmodernist. But if postmodernism is to have theoretical value, it cannot be used merely as another chronological term; rather it must disclose the particular nature of a breach with modernism.15 It is in this sense that the radically new approach to mediums is important. If it had been characteristic of the formal descriptions of modernist art that they were topographical, that they mapped the surfaces of artworks in order to determine their structures, then it has now become necessary to think of description as a stratigraphic activity. Those processes of quotation, excerptation, framing, and staging that constitute the strategies of the work I have been discussing necessitate uncovering strata of representation. Needless to say, we are not in search of sources or origins, but of structures of signification: underneath each picture there is always another picture.
Is Anybody Home
June 3 – August 4, 2019
Marc Jancou Contemporary presented Is Anybody Home, an exhibition of new works by American artist Louise Lawler, as part of its OFFSITE: CHALET series. The exhibition, on view June 3-August 4, 2019, showcased fifteen works from Lawler’s Three Sizes in Twelve Colors (1994/2019) series, alongside Fixed Intervals (1988-92), a collaborative work by Lawler and Allan McCollum.