new-york

Louise Lawler

Metro Pictures

The last few years have seen the emergence of a new trend in critical discussions of Louise Lawler’s art. If in the past Lawler’s reputation as an uncompromising standard-bearer for institutional critique has discouraged aesthetic appreciations, it now seems acceptable, even fashionable, to dwell on the fact that her art is often easy on the eye. Any number of factors may have contributed to this shift: a glut of glossily gorgeous photo-based art; late-’90s rehabilitations of beauty (viz, Dave Hickey, Peter Schjeldahl, Arthur Danto); Douglas Crimp’s observation that the less-cerebral dimensions of Lawler’s work—its emotional impact, its “poignance”—have been overlooked. The sensibility of her art hasn’t appreciably changed but its reception has, with one critic in 2000 going so far as to say that Lawler’s photos are “a critique of nothing but ugliness.”

As if in response to this twist in

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