In this series, Artful highlights an experience or destination that speaks to us right now.
Last March, the Chelsea gallery Metro Pictures—founded in 1980, and the longtime home of major artists including Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo—announced that it would be closing this fall. The news came as a shock, even as it was part of a larger wave of mid-size galleries in the neighborhood shuttering or merging with competitors; Metro Pictures has had a particularly well-defined and well-regarded role in art history, as the launchpad for many photography-based artists who drew images and inspiration from mass media and who came to be known, collectively, as the “Pictures Generation.”
One admired artist of that generation, Louise Lawler, has given the gallery a brooding send-off with her current solo show, titled “LIGHTS OFF, AFTER HOURS, IN THE DARK”—the final exhibition at Metro Pictures. It consists of her long-exposure photographs of last year’s Donald Judd exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, taken at night after the museum had closed. Illuminated mainly by the museum’s exit signage and ambient light from the windowed halls outside the galleries, Judd’s works—normally crisp and colorful in photographs—appear as fuzzed, vaguely ominous shadows.
Lawler is a savvy, critical photographer of other people’s art, and she knows the MoMA galleries well; in 2017 she had a solo exhibition there. Often, her photographs call attention to how valuable artworks are stored and displayed (in auction houses or collectors’ homes, for instance). This series feels different, however, as both a farewell to Metro Pictures and a reminder of the exceptional and depressing circumstances museums and galleries faced during the worst months of the pandemic. (The Judd show, which opened March 1, 2020, went into shutdown less than two weeks later).
In their email announcing the closing, the gallery’s founders referred to “a demanding year of pandemic-driven programming and the anticipated arrival of a very different art world.” Before we can figure out how to operate in that new world, Lawler’s photographs seem to say, we need to take time and space to process our loss.
See a selection of images from the exhibition, which runs through October 23, in the slideshow below.