Laura Owens is an artist who merges a seemingly disparate range of techniques and tropes. In doing so, she is considered one of America's leading and most experimental painters.Read More
Art was always Laura Owen's focus. A mid-career survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2018 included a drawing from her teenage years, a time when Owens committed to being an artist. Her formal education began at the Rhode Island School of Art in 1992. Owens was a contrarian and developed her style in opposition to the male-dominated field that she felt reserved abstraction for themselves. Following her MFA at California Institute of the Arts, Owens' work gained prominence in the mid-1990s.
At a time when painting was regarded skeptically, Owens, well-versed in critical theory, took on the medium and all its conventions. She works without a signature style, instead absorbing a myriad of influences and layering them up in visually abundant works: fields such as craft embroidery, Chinese and Japanese landscape painting, and digital imaging are unified with stealth. The genres she looks to are symptomatic of an artist who privileges great painting over fitting a specific genre. 'I often refer to myself as being in perpetual student mode, teaching myself to make the painting I want to make,' Owens has explained.
Although technically rigorous, her paintings are light, mischievous, and entertaining. Her early works blended painterly abstraction with child-like doodling using craft materials. Untitled (1995), for example, began by looking at William Merritt Chase's Studio Interior (c.1882) and developed into a communal work. To fill the background, Owens invited her friends and family to contribute.
Owens has persisted in questioning painting's possibilities, and in 2003 became the youngest artist to be given a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). By integrating her paintings into a site, she explores her work's ability to invent spatial relationships. She has pictured mirrors within mirrors and made paintings that inhabit whole walls.
Lately, Owens has embraced increasingly complex processes, like the use of digitally manipulated prints doctored with a range of paints, inks, and stickers. For example, Untitled (2014) combines ink, silkscreen ink, vinyl paint, acrylic, oil, pastel, paper, wood, solvent transfers, stickers, thread, board, and glue on linen and polyester to create a mesmeric amalgamation that is strangely familiar.
In 2021, two major exhibitions of Laura Owens' work are being held at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh, Arles, as well as at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Owens' recent solo shows include Laura Owens, House of Gaga, Mexico City (2020); Laura Owens, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (2019); Laura Owens, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); Laura Owens, Dallas Museum of Art (2018); Ten Paintings, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2016); Laura Owens, Secession, Vienna (2015); 12 Paintings by Laura Owens and Ooga Booga #2, 356 S. Mission Rd., Los Angeles (2013); and Art Unlimited, Basel (2012).
Her work is part of many public art collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. She co-founded and ran the exhibition space 356 Mission, Los Angeles from 2013 to 2019.
Laura Owens' website can be found here.
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