Faith in Pictures

installation view of Rachel Harrison’s Marilyn with Wall, 2018, in Faithless Pictures at the Najsonalmuseet in Oslo

Speaking of Rachel Harrison, for the last post I was going back through the catalogue for Life Hack—an exhibition in a book if ever there was one, and with a sweet artist-designed cover I had a computer read aloud to me. And there was a big, beautiful spread of the eighth incarnation of Marilyn with Wall that felt like an even more direct nod to Louise Lawler than all the rest.

Marilyn With Wall began in 2004, when Harrison attached a Lawlerian photo she’d taken at the Andy Warhol Museum archives of the carefully preserved Marilyn Monroe headshot Warhol used for his screens, to the demolished sheetrock wall from Greene Naftali’s previous exhibition.

But this time, in 2018 in Oslo, Harrison discovered that the Najsonalmuseet used reusable walls, so no demo, no waste, no archival sheetrock. So she improvised, and printed the museum’s installer’s pics of the walls on the walls. The pic showed the previous exhibition, which included a Cy Twombly painting.

Weirdly, none of this is in the Whitney catalogue, just the pic and a caption. So where had I read it? I had not. Turns out I had heard Harrison talk about Marilyn with Wall in an April 2021 artist webinar with Darby English organized by the Hirshhorn. Awkward times, good content.

The show Harrison was in, Faithless Pictures, curated by Andrea Kroksnes, was about pictures displacing reality, and the info about it online is so scarce, I almost decided it was only actually realized as a catalogue. [The Najsonalmuseet doesn’t list it on their website, only a Faithless Pictures bibliography from the library.] Which, to be honest, would have been totally fine with me; Harrison’s installation would have rocked 10x harder if it only actually ever existed as a jpg or a spread in a book. But the e-flux announcement was unequivocal, so I think the show did exist IRL.

Cy Twombly, Sunset Series II — Bay of Naples, 1960, pencil, crayon, and oil no canvas, 190 x 200 cm, image via Fondation Hubert Looser

The Twombly, though, was not the Najsonalmuseet’s. It turns out the previous show was of the collection of Hubert Looser, which is usually on view in the Kunsthaus Zürich. The Twombly is good and early, from 1960: Sunset Series Part II — Bay of Naples.

Louise Lawler, Does it matter who owns it?, 1989-90, c-print, embossed mat, artist’s frame, 29×33 in., ed. 5

Faithless Pictures did turn out to also have a work by Louise Lawler: also a photo of a painting installed in a museum. Does it matter who owns it? shows the installation for one Isabella Stewart Gardner made for her little Raphael predella. They definitely don’t move the walls there.