Laura Owens
Audio Guide Playlist


Scott Rothkopf: This gallery features an installation by the artist Laura Owens, which is the culmination of her survey exhibition on the museum's fifth floor. In it, you get a sense of an artist who's very involved with painting on the one hand because you see five canvases bolted directly to the floor, and also an artist who's interested in sculpture and installation art. And this work really shows how she crosses the wires between the two. Are we looking at five paintings? Are we looking at a sculpture, an installation, or all of the above? We're invited to walk between these canvases, to explore the space of the gallery, and both the front and back side of each panel.

At first, we find fragments of images, or stories, but when we move to particular points at either side of the gallery, the image actually coheres in our eyes in perspective. From one side, we find a text that's actually written by Owens' son, Henry Bryan, when he was nine years old. It's a sort of fantastical tale about an alien in Antarctica, and you get the sense of curiosity, of imagination that this boy had in approaching his story.

She's making a work that is meant to be seen in the round, and from both sides. So when we move to the other end of the gallery, we see the back of the stretcher bars actually as part of the painting. We see the raw linen, on which she's added additional details like her son's drawings of fruit flavors from scented markers.

All of these notions about playfulness, childhood, maybe being a mom, are combined with extremely rigorous and virtuosic ideas about painting. How would we bridge those worlds, I think, is part of the meaning of Owens' work, and I think the way that she engages all of us into her journey.


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