Laura Owens at the Whitney

The Laura Owens mid-career survey at the Whitney Museum was about the best immersion into the thinking of a painter you could hope for. Owens early work, the monkeys, owls and bees, signaled a path for painting during one of its many crises.  I recall seeing reproductions of her work in the late 1990's. The paintings were cute, fresh, and existed in a state of perceptual freshness and I wasn't interested.  I wasn't interested until I made my way to an exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum  and saw the work in person. That experience completely shifted my understanding of her work.  John Yau charges Owens, in his review in the Brooklyn Rail, with "gluttony" and its true, she uses every artistic trope imaginable.  Drop shadows, trompe l'oeil, lattice, grids, gingham, silkscreen, the digital, handmade, she never stops. While the Untitled 2015 installation on the top floor of the museum felt awkwardly forced, like a painting trying to be too smart and starting from too little, the rest of the exhibition was delightfully compelling.   Laura Owens can construct a painting like no one else and the work might be gluttonous but it is generously so, rewarding the viewer every time.

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2015. Acrylic, oil and Flashe on linen with powder coated aluminum strainer, 5 panels 108 x 84"

detail: Laura Owens, Untitled, 2015.

detail: Laura Owens, Untitled, 2015.

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2012. Acrylic, oil, vinyl, resin, pumice, and fabric. 108 x 84 each panel.

detail: Laura Owens, Untitled, 2012.

detail: Laura Owens, Untitled, 2012.

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2002, Acrylic and oil on linen, 84 x 132 inches

detail, Laura Owens, Untitled, 2002

Laura Owens, Installation view


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