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Rinder served as the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator of Contemporary Art at the Whitney Museum of American Art where he organized exhibitions including "The American Effect", "BitStreams", the 2002 Whitney Biennial, and "Tim Hawkinson", which was given the 2005 award for best monographic exhibition in a New York museum by the United States chapter of the International Association of Art Critics. Prior to the Whitney, Rinder was founding director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, in San Francisco, and served as Assistant Director and Curator for Twentieth-Century Art at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Among the many exhibitions he organized at these institutions are "Searchlight: Consciousness at the Millennium" (1999), "Knowledge of Higher Worlds: Rudolf Steiner's Blackboard Drawings" (1997), "Louise Bourgeois: Drawings" (1996), "In a Different Light" (1995), "Félix González-Torres" (1994), and "Where There Is Where There: The Prints of John Cage" (1989).
In September 2007, the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California, opened an installation guest curated by Rinder entitled Shahrokh Yadegari: Through Music. This installation served as the latest exhibition in the Museum's REVISIONS series, in which contemporary artists create original installations based on objects in the Museum's extensive collections.
He has published poetry, fiction, and art criticism in Zyzzyva, Fresh Men 2: New Voices in Gay Fiction, Flash Art, Artforum, nest, The Village Voice, Fillip, and Parkett. He is the author of a novel, Revenge of the Decorated Pigs, and a novella (with Colter Jacobsen) "Tuleyome", which was described by Colin Herd in 3:AM Magazine as "Comic and melancholy in equal measure, Tuleyome is the most fully realised example of a text-photo-novel I can think of, where the text and the photos are equal players in the advance of a complex and fascinating narrative, and where the formal properties of both text and photograph are interrogated and laid bare."
Art Life: Selected Writings, 1991-2005, published by Gregory R. Miller and Company in Spring 2006, is his first book of essays. His first play, “The Wishing Well," co-authored with Kevin Killian, premiered in 2006 and was published that year in The Back Room Anthology (Clear Cut Press). In 2003, Rinder was inducted into the National Register of Peer Professionals of the U.S. General Services Administration, and in 2005, he was appointed to the San Francisco Arts Commission by Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Rinder led a major move for the museum from an older – seismically unstable – brutalist building, to a new building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in downtown Berkeley. He announced his retirement from BAMPFA in September 2019.
- "Lawrence Rinder Appointed Director of BAM/PFA", ArtDaily.org, 2008-04-28, archived from the original on 2011-09-27, retrieved 2009-09-12
- Desmarais, Charles (September 24, 2019). "BAMPFA leader Lawrence Rinder is leaving his post to learn from nature". San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
- "Lawrence R. Rinder Appointed Dean of Graduate Studies". California College of the Arts. August 15, 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
- "Slow Train Comin' -". 1 February 2011.
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