|Louise Lawler Monogram -- Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Termaine, New York City|
Irvin goes on to give a second reason why positive aesthetic qualities are not important in making Lawler's photographs art: : "even when her photographs clearly do traffic in positive aesthetic value, as many do, very often it is the kind of aesthetic value that creates an association with nonartistic forms of professional photography" for example evoking interior design photography. The example she gives for this is Monogram -- Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Termaine, New York City 1984I could not find an internet copy of the black and white version of this work, the one that Irvin gives in her essay. This is a shame since that version is much better than the color version I got from Artnet.com above. Although the colored version given above does look almost indistinguishable from something in an interior design magazine, the black and white version shows the hanging ropes above and the air duct grating also above the artwork (which is a Jasper Johns flag painting). Those elements make the work far more interesting formally, especially in juxtaposition with the bed below. In neither photograph is the aesthetic value of the work the same as the aesthetic value one would find in a very similar looking design magazine photograph. The aesthetic value of the illustrated version for example is influenced by the title as well as by its presentation to the world as art. Irvin thinks that the important thing that makes art art is what brings it into the institution: "when a set of objects was created by a person who is clearly aware of and engaged with the artworld, that engagement should be the focus of our inquiry"....presumably our inquiry into how it comes to be art. So Irvin's conclusion is "at least with regard to works of our contemporaries, positive aesthetic value is not normally a key criterion in determining that they are art." (86) I should also add that Irvin has no problem with outsider art being entered into the realm of art because of positive aesthetic qualities, but only as a last resort if there is nothing that connects such art to an artworld institutional context.