A Los Angeles Artist Who Loves ‘Ugly Painting’

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2000. Photo: © Laura Owens

Painter Laura Owens was the youngest artist ever with a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles — a retrospective, in her early 30s. That was in 2003. Since then, her avant-garde work has appeared in art institutions around the world, including the Tate Modern in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. And recently she’s become known for “ugly painting.” Her extensive mid-career survey opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York today, after she contributed to two Whitney Biennials.

The new show features 60 paintings by Owens, some drawn from the museum’s own collection. Her work is inspired by an exhaustive range of styles and influences, including traditional American folk art, clip art, digital imaging, stencils, tapestry, silk screens, typography, and abstraction. She often paints explosions of color, or boldly uses just a few pigments.

Owens silk-screened each cover of the museum’s accompanying book by hand. At 664 pages, Owens, Laura is a statement coffee-table book, with critical essays, the artist’s personal correspondence, photographs, clippings, and anecdotes written by friends. Click ahead to see paintings from the show.

Laura Owens” is on view at the Whitney until February 4, 2018.

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A Los Angeles Artist Who Loves ‘Ugly Painting’