We Asked 32 Children to Fill in the Most Highbrow Contemporary-Art Coloring Book Imaginable. Here Are the Delightful Results

Louise Lawler's work asks big questions about how we see and value contemporary art. So what do kids make of it?

The artist known as Logan, at work on his response to Louise Lawler's latest appropriate art series.
The artist known as Logan, at work on his response to Louise Lawler's latest appropriate art series.

With parents and kids alike stuck at home, museums have been quick to offer families myriad resources for distraction. Among the quirkiest is a specially designed coloring book courtesy of the conceptual photographer Louise Lawler, made available by the Museum of Modern Art in New York last month.

Lawler is known to art fans for photos that document the everyday reality of how art is shown and displayed in the spaces of the people who live with it. She’s also been known to remix her own art, constantly thinking about what images mean in new contexts. For her 2017 MoMA retrospective, she worked with kids book illustrator Jon Buller to make versions of her best-known photos distilled into line drawings that were then blown up on the walls.

The new MoMA coloring book remixes 12 of these black-and-white images once more, turning them into an actual activity “for children and adults of all ages.” (MoMA is looking out for submissions online with the hashtag #DrawingWithMoMA.)

Here, for instance, is the coloring book version of Lawler’s seminal 1984 photo showing a Jackson Pollock painting displayed behind a soup dish, a juxtaposition which has been called “simultaneously trenchant and poignant”:

Coloring book version of Louise Lawler's <em>Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Connecticut</em> (1984).

Coloring book version of Louise Lawler’s Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Connecticut (1984).

And here is the coloring book version of Still Life (Candle) (2003), which shows a small On Kawara date painting, hovering over a table set with wine glasses and an ashtray full of cigarette butts.

Coloring book version of Louise Lawler's <em>Still Life (Candle)</em> (2003).

Coloring book version of Louise Lawler’s Still Life (Candle) (2003).

And here is the colorable version of a 1999 Lawler showing a polished Jeff Koons bunny displayed in front of a painting by fellow Neo-Geo artist Peter Halley, an image that once made the cover of Artforum.

Coloring book version of Louise Lawler's <em>(Bunny) Sculpture and Painting</em> (1999).

Coloring book version of Louise Lawler’s (Bunny) Sculpture and Painting (1999).

We decided to take these three Lawlers for a spin. Our office mates and friends tapped their stable of emerging artists to provide unique interpretations of what is perhaps the most high-concept, art historically informed coloring book ever produced. Submissions arrived in a variety of media, from colored pencil to markers to computer coloring programs to, in one case (we speak of Rex), an innovative deployment of collage to comment on the collision of street art and post-conceptualism in SoHo’s heady 1980s.

The results really make you think about all the themes in Lawler’s art: how artists make decisions and how we confer value onto images. Enjoy!

Ava, 2

Ava, 2, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

James, 2

James, age 2, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Ellie, 3

Ariana, age 3, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Ida, 3

Ida, 3, colors in a page of Louise Lawler's MoMA coloring book.

Sienna, 3

Sienna, 3, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

 

Rex, 4

Rex, 4, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Reyan, 4

Reyan, 4, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Ruby, 4

Ruby, age 4, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Allie, 5

Allie, age 5, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Ariana, 5

Ariana, age 5, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Broden, 5

 

Broden Dowling, 5, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.


Finn, 5

Finn, 5, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Anais, 6

Anais, age 6, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Caiden, 6

Orla, 5, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Elena, 6

Elena, 6, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

 

John, 6

John, 6, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Logan, 6

Logan, 6, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Orla, 6

Orla, 6, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Ariana, 7

Ariana, 7, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Eloise, 8

Eloise, age 8, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Miles, 8

Miles, 8, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Olivia, 8

Olivia, 8, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

William, 8

John, 8, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Charlie, 9

Charlie, 9, does a page from MoMA Louise Lawler coloring book.

Skylar, 9

Skylar, 9, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Amelia, 10

Amelia, 10, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Hailey, 10

Hailey does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Paula, 10

Paula, 10, does a page from Lousie Lawler's MoMA coloring book.

Erin, 11

Erin, 11, does a page from MoMA Louise Lawler coloring book.

Jack, 11

Jack, 11, does a page of the Museum of Modern Art's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Scarlett, 11

Scarlett, 11, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.

Mary, 15

Mary, 15, does a page from MoMA's Louise Lawler coloring book.


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