Art on Art on Art
For centuries, visual artists have engaged the subject of representation by using a wide array of formal strategies to create art that variously refers to itself, the artist, the history of art, the act of artmaking, the intrinsic nature of materials, the conventions of particular genres, and related themes of spectatorship and display. Art on Art on Art features a focused selection of works by pioneering 20th-century artists Louise Lawler, Pablo Picasso, and Audrey Flack that confront the conditions, systems, and functions of representation and artmaking.
Louise Lawler established her career in the late 1970s as a key member of the Pictures Generation, a group of artists who used methods of appropriation to examine media culture, codes of representation, and notions of authorship. In Lawler’s signature work, she photographs art by other artists inhabiting various settings—including museums and galleries, private collectors’ homes, auction houses, and storage spaces. In the early 2000s, she began turning her lens on her own practice, reproducing her photographs in different formats and materials. For her “adjusted to fit” series, she digitally manipulates images to fit the specific dimensions of the walls on which they are exhibited.
At the Bechtler, Lawler’s large-scale Big (adjusted to fit) (2002/2003/2016) has been stretched to fill the 31-foot-long main wall of the gallery. In this photograph, Lawler captures artist Maurizio Cattelan’s Big (1998)—a larger-than-life-size mask and sculpture of Pablo Picasso’s body—disassembled on the floor of Marian Goodman Gallery’s booth at the 2002 Art Basel Miami art fair. On the wall behind Picasso’s fragmented likeness hangs photographer Thomas Struth’s Pergamon Museum IV (2001), which shows museum visitors in Berlin looking at and mingling among ancient Greek statuary.
Throughout his career, Picasso similarly referenced his own practice and looked to art historical predecessors and peers, as demonstrated in the tapestry and ceramic work by the artist on view in Art on Art on Art. In contrast, Audrey Flack, who emerged as an artist in the 1960s as a pivotal Photorealist, considers the socio-political dimensions of representation. In Flack’s sculpture Civitas (1990), she employs the classical style of Greco-Roman art while offering a feminist commentary on the predominantly patriarchal construction of the art historical canon. Lawler’s sound work Birdcalls (1972/81), which plays on the Bechtler’s outdoor terrace, likewise (and literally) calls attention to the recognition that her male contemporaries have disproportionally received. Birdcalls marks the first time sound art is presented at the museum.
Together, the works on view in Art on Art on Art both celebrate and interrogate the legacies and ever-evolving significance of art itself.