The Dallas Museum of Art will present the most comprehensive survey to-date of work by the Los Angeles–based painter Laura Owens, one of the foremost artists of her generation. Laura Owens, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), not only presents Owens’s early work but highlights her significant evolution over the past few years, stressing how the work produced at the beginning of her career serves as a prelude to her gripping new paintings and installations. On view March 25 through July 29, 2018, the exhibition features approximately 60 paintings, with the Dallas presentation including significant loans from local collections.
“Laura Owens is an influential and innovative artist and we are eager to share her fascinating and intriguing work with all of North Texas, especially as many in our community have followed her career,” said the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director Dr. Agustín Arteaga. “Owens’s experimentation with her art has established her as an important figure for younger generations of artists and has captivated the art world for decades, securing her a place of pride in numerous collections around the world, including the Dallas Museum of Art.”
Despite being known as one of the most influential artists of her generation, Owens has never had an in-depth presentation of her work in the United States, and this exhibition is her first major museum show in the United States since her landmark early career survey in 2003.
For more than 20 years, Laura Owens has pioneered an innovative approach to painting that challenges traditional assumptions about the nature of figuration and abstraction, the relationships among avant-garde art, craft, and pop culture, and the interplay between painting and contemporary technologies. After completing her studies at the California Institute of the Arts in 1994, Owens established herself as a key voice pushing painting toward a new conception of site-specificity grounded in the social, poetic, and architectural conditions of a particular place. Early on, she demonstrated a keen interest in how paintings function in a given room and used trompe-l’oeil techniques to extend the plane of a wall or floor directly into the illusionistic space of her pictures. These canvases often featured paintings within paintings and sometimes paintings within those, creating an effect of Russian nesting dolls that confused the boundaries of actual and pictorial space, as well as reality and representation. Owens’s interest in American folk art, historical tapestries, and other vernacular forms led her to fill her canvases with imagery and materials, such as felt appliqué and needlework. Over the past five years, Owens has charted a dramatic transformation in her work, utilizing all of her previous interests and talents within large-scale paintings that make expert and beautiful use of silkscreen, computer manipulation, digital printing, and material exploration.
“Laura Owens has redefined contemporary painting. Her work maintains a playful sense of wonder even as it challenges the intellect. Synthesizing vast historical references and technological innovations, it has something for everyone, revealing layers of complexity over time,” said Anna Katherine Brodbeck, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA and curator of the Dallas presentation.
As a way to introduce this influential American painter to a wider audience, DMA visitors will be able to see some of the exhibition for free. On view in the Concourse are interactive paintings with a sound component inviting the visitor to text with a question or comment, and a selection of paintings and 64 clocks will be displayed in a quadrant gallery off of the iconic Barrel Vault.
About the Artist
Laura Owens was born in Ohio in 1970 and received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1992 and her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1994. Owens is co-founder and programmer of 356 S. Mission Rd., a collaborative art gallery, bookstore, and event space that hosts regular exhibitions, readings, and screenings and has become a crucial gathering place and beacon for the Los Angeles art community and beyond. Her work has been presented in exhibitions at institutions around the world, including notable solo exhibitions at The Wattis Institute, San Francisco (2016); Secession, Vienna (2015); Kunstmuseum Bonn (2011); Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht (2007); Ausstellungshalle Zeitgenossische Kunst, Munster (2007); Kunsthalle Zurich (2006); Camden Arts Centre, London (2006); Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2004); Milwaukee Art Museum (2003); Aspen Art Museum (2003); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2003); and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (2001). Her work is also featured in the collections of numerous international and national museums. In 2016 Owens was named the TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art honoree.
About the Catalogue
Laura Owens and exhibition organizing curator Scott Rothkopf have conceived of the catalogue as an inventive companion publication in the form of an expansive 664-page miscellany interweaving writing on her work with excerpts from a wide variety of texts on related themes. Rothkopf provides an introduction, accompanied by new and excerpted essays by Berlin-based critic Kirsty Bell; Gavin Delahunty; Pulitzer Prize–winning Los Angeles Times food writer Jonathan Gold; Artforum Contributing Editor Bruce Hainley; Stanford University Professor Sianne Ngai; Francine Prose; and David Foster Wallace, among others. Topics range from the history of wallpaper and kitsch to artists as far flung as Francisco de Zurbarán and Elizabeth Murray. The illustrated volume will showcase Owens’s paintings within a rich trove of archival imagery, including exhibition announcements, installation photographs, personal correspondence, and source material, supplemented by an oral history with commentary from fellow artists, collaborators, assistants, dealers, and other longtime friends. The catalogue will situate Owens’s artistic output, diverse interests, and personal history within a larger cultural matrix, arguing for the vitality of contemporary painting in its fullest formal and social possibilities.
Laura Owens is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The DMA’s presentation is made possible by the The Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas, and Elisabeth and Panos Karpidas. Air transportation provided by American Airlines. Laura Owens will require a special exhibition ticket. Tickets are $16; DMA Members are free.