Laura Owens Artist Interview

Paintings as problems, the flexibility of the still life, Cezanne, paintings within paintings and absorption are all covered in Jan Tumlir and Stephen Berens interview of Laura Owens for X-TRA Magazine.

Tumlir asked how she knows a painting is finished...
This is one of the most interesting ideas or questions one gets to work with when making a painting. And the answer is not there. I try to work against my own habits and conservative ideas to reformulate this as a question, but the opposite response of unfinished, no finish, not yet finished, can also lead to some habits and conventional thinking. I think this also gets close to ideas of taste in a nicely uncomfortable way, where you know you are almost a hack, clearly one step away from Thomas Kincade production, so what is keeping you from going all the way there? The illusion of speculative gestures? A search for some sort of infinite recontextualization that could carry the work forward? Are you a jam band that needs to stop jammin’? Does the drummer just stop? And then what happens? I try to just watch what is happening and throw shit at the fan.
Installation view of 12 Paintings by Laura Owens, 346 South Mission Road, Los Angeles, January 2013. Photo by Fredrik Nielsen. Courtesy the artist, 356 South Mission Road, and Gavin Brown’s enterprise.

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2013. Flashe, acrylic, and oil on canvas; 137 !/2 × 120 inches. Photo by Fran and Doug Parker. Courtesy the artist, 356 South Mission Road, and Gavin Brown’s enterprise.


That’s where I get unnerved, because I really want paintings to be problems and I want to activate the viewer to feel that this absorption is disrupted in some way. Even within the individual works, the reason I’m using these different techniques and have these drop shadows that are pushing out is so that you can’t fall into it like a window. The painting is coming out at you and asking you to put these things together. Why is this painted on a newspaper-like ground? Why is everything so disparate? It gives you more chances to level these hierarchies and talk about heterogeneity, because here’s a reference to Matisse and then a children’s mural, and you get to slam those two things together in the same exhibition, two different ways of making. So there are more spaces to move through, all these different levels in space.
When I think of absorption, I think of going into this world, this other world that relates to me more in a photographic way, where you’re teleported somewhere. Whereas what interests me in painting is that it comes out into the room, almost punches you in the face. And you can, if you want, go back in deep space because it has so much elasticity. But I really dislike paintings where I’m just meant to dive in. There’s a passivity to absorption that I’m not interested in.

Jan Tumlir and Stephen Berens interviewed Laura Owens for X-TRA. This is the second half of the 

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