Laura Owens at the Whitney Museum

There are manifold levels in the work of the American artist Laura Owens. For more than twenty years, the 47-year-old has been experimenting with the genre of painting, always with a claim to explore what is visually and creatively possible, to transcend the boundaries of the known, both in form and in content. Laura Owens features animals, humans, mythical creatures and figures from digital worlds. Sometimes it is abstract, then figurative, then abstract again.

In her retrospective spanning two floors at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the full scope of the Ohio-born artist’s work is presented, highlighting the perspective depth inherent in her work. Overlooking the Hudson River, five canvases are free-standing on the parquet of the top floor of the museum and invite visitors to wander around. This is important, because only when you start moving do the canvasses, arranged in succession, tell a story. Written by Owen’s nine-year-old son Henry Bryan, whose drawings, created with highlighters and digitally enlarged by the artist, decorate the back of the colonnade elements. The interplay of painting and digital processing characterises the recent development in Owen’s oeuvre, thus bringing the process of transformation that her paintings undergo to the forefront. With the biggest retrospective of its kind to date, the Whitney Museum provides an insightful juxtaposition of Laura Owen’s diverse work, which not only exemplifies the artist’s development process, but also reveals her multifaceted approach to the medium of painting.

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