One of the primary functions of Lawler’s work is to demonstrate how art changes based on the context. “She draws attention to aspects that [the viewer] usually fails to notice,” Marcoci says. “All of these pictures deploy her careful attention to institutional frameworks, to artistic presentations, and to model displays. The very witty and effective situations that underscore the strategies in that format are production and deception.”
Lawler’s pieces also often have a strong feminist angle to them. Birdcalls, for instance, is a seven-minute audio piece that was conceived in 1972 and then recorded nine years later. Lawler was invited to help her friends set up a show at an abandoned pier on the Hudson River, but was not included in the exhibition—aptly named “Pier 18”—herself. Marcoci explains that in the piece, “She literally strains her voice in order to squeak, chirp, and tweet either the first or last names of celebrated male artists who were included in the show.” The audio will play in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden throughout the duration of the exhibition.