For more than twenty years, Laura Owens has pioneered an innovative approach to painting that has made her one of the most influential artists of her generation. Her bold and experimental work challenges traditional assumptions about Figuration and Abstraction, as well as the relationships among avant-garde art, craft, pop culture, and technology.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: Whitney Museum of American Art Archive
The mid-career survey of Laura Owens at Whitney Museum of American Art, highlights Owens innovative and often controversial approach to painting. The selection of works on display features approximately 60 paintings of the artist from the mid-1990s until today. The exhibit also contains custom-printed wallpaper and artist’s books created especially for the show. The exhibition examines Owens oeuvre from the last few years charting a trajectory showcasing her early works and setting a tone for her recent paintings and installations. Over the course of last 5 years, the artist’s work has gone through a dramatic transformation including material exploration and the use of mediums such as silkscreen, computer manipulation, and digital printing. Owens emerged on the Los Angeles art scene during the mid-90s, at a time when many in the critical establishment viewed painting with suspicion. Her early canvases upended the traditions of painterly abstraction by incorporating goofy personal allusions, doodling, and common craft materials. These works often demonstrated her keen interest in how paintings function in a given room and used illusionistic techniques to extend the plane of a wall or floor directly into the space of her pictures. More recently, she has charted a dramatic transformation in her work, marshaling all of her previous interests and talents within large-scale paintings that make virtuosic use of silkscreen, computer manipulation, digital printing, and material exploration. Owens’ paintings, which challenge traditional concepts of painting, are often grandly scaled. They envelop the viewer and incorporate the walls and floors of the room in which they were made or exhibited. Her practice takes the exhibition site into account and she frequently plays with the installation of works to enhance their meaning. In her exhibition at Milwaukee Art Museum (18/10/03-18/1/04) installed on one wall but spaced apart, her two-panel painting “Untitled” (1999) featured monkeys who beckon to each other across the blank space between them. The viewer who stands between the two canvases ends up occupying the virtual space of the work of art. Another work, “Untitled” (2000) is one of a pair of works created for an installation at Inverleith House in Edinburgh; it was both inspired by and made to compete with the view from the gallery windows of the surrounding botanical garden.
Info: Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, New York, Duration: 10/11/17-4/2/18, Days & Hours: Mon, Wed-Thu & Sun 10:30-18:00, Fri-Sat 10:30-22:00, https://whitney.org