Entitlement

Laura Owens Untitled 2013

“One of the most interesting aspects of Owens’s work is that photography is not at its center. Digital logics, yes, but the photograph, no. Instead, drawing carries out the task of mimesis—an explosion of drawing both handmade and cribbed from elsewhere, of everything in the world: trees, buildings, numbers, monkeys, soldiers, ladies, couples, fruit, boats, cats. The show overflowed with handwriting, outlines, cartoons, sketches, stencils, shadows, and their graphic proxies, drop shadows. The magic of drawing—and Owens is a fantastic draw-er—is that you can remake anything you see or think of with your own hands. You take a picture, but you make a drawing.” Amy Sillman on Laura Owens, April 2018.

What’s interesting about this younger generation of Abstract Mannerists is that they don’t have to fight the same fights about abstraction. Abstraction is not new, not disparate. It’s just part of the world. To repurpose Dave Hickey’s comment on big money in the art world – “Abstraction is just laying on the ground.” Laura Owens picks up Modernist styles and Postmodernist techniques and uses them like an everyday language. Her approach to painting is matter of fact and at ease and her subjects are quotidian and ordinary. These paintings to me feel like a kind of genre painting for the 21st Century.

“In an era when many younger artists struggle with issues of heroism and the weight of achievements past, Los Angeles-based painter Laura Owens seems to have opened her umbrella and floated over the art historical baggage collecting on the tarmac. Owens borrows where she pleases—from modernist movements past such as Color Field, Op Art, and Pattern and Decoration, from European painters like Rousseau and Toulouse-Lautrec, from anonymous mediums such as textile and embroidery. Art historical references and any sort of imagery, high or low, that Owens feels like incorporating are co-opted with finesse and a clear-eyed sense of no-fuss entitlement, in service to a larger goal: her own precise vision for what makes a painting pleasurable to behold. Despite this precision she is highly versatile, and her paintings vary from abstraction to figuration to kooky nature landscapes in which the animals co-habitate in a harmony that limns the absurd (a monkey reaches out playfully to a butterfly, an owl stakes out a fragment of moonlit night amidst a backdrop of blue sky and puffy clouds).” Rachel Kushner on Laura Owens, May 1, 2003. 

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