A Los Angeles Artist Who Loves ‘Ugly Painting’

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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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Photo: © Laura Owens

Laura Owens, Untitled, 1997

Acrylic and oil on canvas, 78 x 84 in. (198.1 x 213.4 cm). Collection of Mima and César Reyes.

Photo: © Laura Owens

Laura Owens,  Untitled, 1997

Oil, acrylic, and airbrushed oil on canvas, 96 × 120 in. (243.8 × 304.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner.

Photo: © Laura Owens

Laura Owens,  Untitled, 1998

Acrylic on canvas, 66 x 72 in. (167.6 x 182.9 cm). Collection of the artist. Courtesy the artist / Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York and Rome; Sadie Coles HQ, London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. 

Photo: © Laura Owens

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2000

Acrylic, oil, and graphite on canvas, 72 x 66 1/2 in. (182.9 x 168.9 cm). Collezione Giuseppe Iannaccone, Milan. 

Photo: © Laura Owens

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2004

Acrylic and oil on linen, 66 x 66 in. (167.6 x 167.6 cm). Collection of Nina Moore. 

Photo: © Laura Owens

Laura Owens,  Untitled, 2006

Acrylic and oil on linen, 56 x 40 in. (142.2 x 101.6 cm). Charlotte Feng Ford Collection. 

Photo: © Laura Owens

Detail of Laura Owens, Untitled, 2012

Acrylic, oil, vinyl paint, charcoal, yarn, and cord on hand-dyed linen, 33 panels, 35 1/2 x 33 1/4 in. (90.2 x 84.5 cm) each. Collection of Maja Hoffmann/LUMA Foundation. 

Photo: © Laura Owens

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2012

Acrylic, oil, vinyl paint, resin, pumice, and fabric on canvas, 108 x 84 in. (274.3 x 213.4 cm). Collection of the artist. Courtesy the artist / Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York and Rome; Sadie Coles HQ, London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. 

Photo: © Laura Owens

Detail of Laura Owens, Untitled, 2014. 

Ink, silkscreen ink, vinyl paint, acrylic, oil, pastel, paper, wood, solvent transfers, stickers, handmade paper, thread, board, and glue on linen and polyester, five parts: 138 1/8 x 106 ½ x 2 5/8 in. (350.8 x 270.5 x 6.7 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from Jonathan Sobel.

A Los Angeles Artist Who Loves ‘Ugly Painting’