Contributed by Sharon Butler / Laura Owens’s mid-career survey at the Whitney Museum features more than 60 paintings, many large-scale and hung salon-style, from the mid-1990s until today. The work is all over the map, but Owens’s primary interest lies in fusing craft, doodling, sentimental greeting card and children’s book illustration, narrative, pop culture, and digital prints into a big happy mess. In the press release, the curator notes that the Whitney has “a longstanding commitment to Owens, who has been featured in two Biennials, and is significantly represented in the Museum’s collection.” That may be so, but Owens’s madcap approach strikes me as out of touch for these brooding times — the political situation is simply too mortifying for me to appreciate so much fun. Other artists tell me they’re glad to see such a lively show because it takes their minds off the terrifying juggernaut known as the Republican Party. Don’t miss the essay her mother wrote for the catalogue/artist’s book that was produced in conjunction with the exhibition. It’s priceless.
A long-time Owens fan, Roberta Smith says:
Ms. Owens loves painting but she approaches it with a rare combination of sincerity and irony. Distinguished by a sly, comedic beauty, her work has a playful, knowing, almost-Rococo lightness of being in which pleasure, humor, intelligence and a seductive sense of usually high color mingle freely. Her polymorphous way with motifs and materials recalls the German maverick Sigmar Polke; her intense forward propulsion is not unlike Frank Stella’s.
Laura Owens, Untitled, 2015, acrylic, oil, vinyl paint, and silkscreen ink on linen, 108 x 84 inches
“Laura Owens,” organized by Scott Rothkopf and Jessica Man, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. Through February 4, 2018.
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Tags: Sharon Butler