CINCINNATI — The opening keynote for the 2016 FotoFocus Biennial, which has been taking place throughout the month of October in myriad locations in and around Cincinnati, centered on the American artist and photographer Louise Lawler. Roxana Marcoci, who delivered the opening address and is the senior curator in the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, is working with Lawler on a career retrospective at the museum, WHY PICTURES NOW, which will open in April of 2017. At the biennial, Marcoci took the opportunity to share some of her research on this unique artist, as well as wax philosophical on the role of the viewer in the life of an artwork.
According to Marcoci, throughout Lawler’s career, she’s stated that the artist is “not the sole author of the artwork’s meaning.” This somewhat simple assertion speaks to an issue of great depth: whether or not artworks can hold inherent meaning, or if they are entirely dependent on context and a viewer’s agency. Over her career as a conceptual artist, Lawler has continuously reframed the existing artworks of other people, forcing the viewer to consider ways that the work changes meaning at a layer of remove, and questioned the role of the artist as she interjects herself and mediates between viewer and original object, much as the camera does.