Thomas Lawson (born 1951, Glasgow, Scotland) is an artist, writer, magazine editor, and Dean of the School of Art at California Institute for the Arts. He emerged as a central figure in ideological debates at the turn of the 1980s about the viability of painting through critical essays, such as "Last Exit: Painting" (1981), and as one of the artists in the loosely defined "Pictures Generation" group. He has been described as "an embedded correspondent [and] polemical editorialist" who articulated an oppositional, progressive position for representational painting from within an increasingly reactionary art and media environment. Artforum called his approach to the medium "one of the most cogent and controversial" in the 80s.
Lawson has received awards from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts and Rockefeller Foundation, among others, and exhibited internationally at galleries and museums including Metro Pictures (New York), Anthony Reynolds (London), the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), and Le Magasin (Grenoble). He was featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, "The Pictures Generation" (2009), and "A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation" (1989) at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MoCA). He has also created temporary public works in New York City, Glasgow, and Newcastle upon Tyne. Lawson's essays have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals such as Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art and October; an anthology of his writing, Mining for Gold, was published in 2004. He has also edited or co-edited the contemporary art journals REALLIFE Magazine, Afterall and East of Borneo. Lawson lives and works in Los Angeles.