Louise Lawler

Rest On the Flight Into Egypt and August Sunlight

1997, printed 1999

Not on display

Louise Lawler born 1947
Photograph, dye destruction on paper
Image: 393 × 495 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Karpidas Family (Tate Americas Foundation) 2013
On long term loan


This is one of a group of related colour cibachrome photographic prints on paper by Louise Lawler in Tate’s collection, created over a period of seventeen years between 1993 and 2010 (Tate L03667–L03673). Rest on the Flight into Egypt and August Sunlight was taken in 1997 and printed in 1999 in an edition of five, of which this is the second. It shows a cropped view of works, in frames of various colours and conditions, resting on three levels of archival shelving. The actual works housed in the two frames on the lower shelf are partially displayed, while the angle of the camera means that only frames are visible on the shelves above. The two works partially shown are, on the lower left, Rest on the Flight into Egypt 1570 by Paolo Veronese (1528–88), and, on the lower right, August Sunlight 1916 by Charles E. Burchfield (1893–1967). Information provided by the artist reveals that this photograph was taken in the storage facility of the Agnes Morgan Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Lawler is best known for her photographs of the interiors of museums, galleries and the homes of art collectors. She depicts rtworks in context, investigating how display conditions influence their meaning. Her close studies of the placement of works of art in institutions and in private homes demonstrate the degree to which factors external to artworks affect their significance and auratic quality (see for example, March 25, 1991 1991, Tate P79772, and Foreground 1994, Tate P79771). Her images frequently offer an ironic commentary on the use of artworks as decoration or emblems of cultural capital. She has described her critical intention, stating: ‘The effort of my work is to show the habits and conventions of looking at art by taking on aspects of the system to make it visible’ (quoted in Museum of Modern Art 1987, unpaginated).

From the late 1990s onwards, Lawler extended this interest to include images of works of art either in storage or in the process of installation and de-installation; such is the case with Rest on the Flight into Egypt and August Sunlight and the other related works in this group. Lawler’s photographs employ a variety of formal devices such as close ups, cropping, unconventional angles and the use of lighting and exposure to create unusual compositions and juxtapositions.

The importance of titles in Lawler’s practice varies. Often she uses descriptive yet enigmatic titles which sometimes provide clues identifying the artwork seen in the photograph. An example of this would be Splash 2006 (Tate L03670), which shows a corner of Roy Lichtenstein’s (1923–97) painting Brushstroke with Splatter 1966 (Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago). In the case of Rest on the Flight to Egypt and August Sunlight, the title is of course derived from the two partially visible works in this snapshot of shelving. The importance given to these works in providing the title of the photograph, however, highlights the arbitrary nature of the snapshot image, taken seemingly haphazardly among so many archived works of art.

Further reading
Projects: Louise Lawler, exhibition leaflet, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1987.
Helen Molesworth (ed.), Louise Lawler: Twice Untitled and Other Pictures (Looking Back), exhibition catalogue, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio 2006.

Shoair Mavlian
December 2012
Arthur Goodwin
October 2018

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