Liam Gillick and Louise Lawler

Liam Gillick / Louise Lawler

Casey Kaplan
525 West 21st Street, Chelsea
Through Dec. 21

In their first collaboration, Liam Gillick and Louise Lawler stay within their comfort zones but manage to nudge us out of ours. Their familiar methods of institutional critique (photographic in Ms. Lawler’s case, sculptural for Mr. Gillick) combine to form a dynamic, disorienting installation.

Mr. Gillick’s contribution is a text piece composed of cutout aluminum sentences, which hang from the ceiling in neat rows and lure readers deeper and deeper into the gallery. Gradually, it reveals a vague and halting narrative about workers at a defunct factory (the Volvo plant in Kalmar, Sweden, as the news release tells us).

Ms. Lawler contributes a striking background, a long vinyl wall sticker that links the three rooms of the gallery. The image printed on it is a stretched-out version of some of her earlier photographs of artworks in bland white-box settings; here, pieces by Degas, Richard Serra and Gerhard Richter, among others, are distorted beyond recognition.

The collaborative ethos of the show, the references to the socialist history of Volvo production, the relentless conveyor belt of the installation and the content of Ms. Lawler’s photographs (individual artworks by top-selling male artists, blended into a single seamless strip) all signal discomfort with the rah-rah capitalism of the current art market. But no alternatives are proposed, and the installation leaves us with a haunting vision of a factory in limbo. As Mr. Gillick’s text puts it, “No one has secured the building, and no one has wrecked it either.”