Abstract artist Laura Owens challenges traditional ideas of good taste

Published November 8, 2017

LAURA OWENS, UNTITLED, 2004. ACRYLIC AND OIL ON LINEN, 66×66″; COLLECTION OF NINA MOORE.

Laura Owens’s paintings require two ways of looking: one for contemplation and one simply to marvel. Long touted as a favorite artist among in-the-know artists, the Los Angeles–based painter creates canvases that dabble in abstraction, Japanese landscape painting, pop art, installation art, and, thanks to an appearance in one work from some large pink cats, a bit of humor. This month, Owens is the subject of a well-deserved mid-career retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art.

“Her work bridges many worlds of reference and challenges traditional ideas about good taste,” says the museum’s chief curator Scott Rothkopf. “Her paintings don’t settle down into decor or look great with your sofa, which may be one of the reasons why they feel strangely disruptive when you encounter them in domestic settings. This jangly, lively quality is rare and exciting.” The exhibition, featuring nearly 60 pieces from the mid-1990s to the present, will finally bring that jangly, lively magic to the masses.

LAURA OWENS RUNS NOVEMBER 10, 2017 THROUGH FEBRUARY 4, 2018 AT THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART.