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Laura Owens

October 18, 2003 ­ January 18, 2004


Los Angeles-based artist Laura Owens is one of the most highly regarded young painters working today. The exhibition Laura Owens, on view in the Milwaukee Art Museum's Vogel/Helfaer Contemporary Galleries October 18, 2003 ­ January 18, 2004, is the first major monographic survey of the artist's work and traces her development from 1997 to the present. Incorporating a wide and imaginative range of subjects and techniques, her work moves with ease between high and low, personal and social, figuration and abstraction. The exhibition, Owens' most significant presentation to date, features approximately 20 paintings and several drawings, including a group of new large-scale works created for this presentation. (right: Laura Owens, Untitled, 2000. Acrylic and oil on canvas. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles)

Owens is part of an international movement of emerging painters who investigate the formal issues of the medium through a highly personal blend of abstract and representational imagery. Her work incorporates an eclectic range of visual references, including English embroidery, Chinese and Japanese landscape painting, European and American modernism, and her own photography. Her unique style moves from landscape to abstraction with energetic, thick brushstrokes, fanciful childlike doodles, whimsical collage and sophisticated fine line drawings.

"Laura Owens is one of the most important painters to emerge in the past decade," said Margaret Andera, exhibition coordinator at MAM and associate curator. "We are happy to be able to have her work on view for Milwaukeeans and visitors to enjoy."

The Milwaukee Art Museum's presentation of Laura Owens allows viewers to track the artist's development and to forge links between works that, in many cases, have never been shown together. Owens is creating significant new, large-scale paintings for the exhibition. Among them is Untitled (2002), a spacious desert landscape comprised of washes of color, strange sponge effects, and cacti drawn in outline with paint squeezed from a tube. (right: Laura Owens, Untitled, 2000. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Goetz Collection, Munich)

Owens' paintings, which challenge traditional concepts of painting, are often grandly scaled. They envelop the viewer and incorporate the walls and floors of the room in which they were made or exhibited. Her practice takes the exhibition site into account and she frequently plays with the installation of works to enhance their meaning. Installed on one wall but spaced apart, her two-panel painting Untitled (1999) features monkeys who beckon to each other across the blank space between them. The viewer who stands between the two canvases ends up occupying the virtual space of the work of art. Another work, Untitled (2000) is one of a pair of works created for an installation at Inverleith House in Edinburgh; it was both inspired by and made to compete with the view from the gallery windows of the surrounding botanical garden.

Owens' work has been included in the most important surveys of new painting, including Examining Pictures (Whitechapel Art Gallery, London and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1999), Painting at the End of the World (Walker Art Center, 2001), Painting on the Move (Kunstmuseum, Kunsthalle, and Museum für Gegenwartkunst, Basel, 2002), as well as the 1999-2000 Carnegie International and Drawing Now: Eight Propositions (The Museum of Modern Art, 2002-03).


About the Artist

Born in 1970 in Euclid, Ohio, Owens is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine; and the California Institute of Arts, Valencia. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Since her first solo show in 1995, Owens has exhibited extensively and has enjoyed wide international exposure and substantial critical acclaim. Her works are in the collections of MOCA, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.


Organization and Tour

The exhibition is organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and coordinated at MAM by Margaret Andera, associate curator. The exhibition is accompanied by a major catalogue, with essays by exhibition curator Paul Schimmel and art historian Thomas Lawson. Nationally, Laura Owens is made possible by the generous support of Mark S. Siegel, The Pasadena Art Alliance, Kathi and Gary Cypres, David Hockney and Betye Monell Burton.

The exhibition comes to the Milwaukee Art Museum after its debut at MOCA and showing at the Aspen Art Museum (August 2 ­ September 28, 2003). After MAM, the exhibition travels to the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (March 4 ­ May 9, 2004).


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