Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
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Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
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and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with
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Ashton Cooper
Object Project
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Chris Kraus
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Ben Sanders
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iris yirei hsu
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Harald Szeemann
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Ali Prosch
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Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
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Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
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Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
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at Rainbow in Spanish
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Adrián Villas Rojas
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Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
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Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
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Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
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David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
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- Hana Cohn
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
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Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
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Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
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L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
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and Photography Fail
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at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
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Ravi Jackson
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Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
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Ibid Gallery
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the Autry Museum
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Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
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Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Broken Language
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Artists of Color
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Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
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Home
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Analia Saban at
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Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
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Young Chung
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Parallel City
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Jason Rhodes
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Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
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Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
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Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
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Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
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Jessica Simmons
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Karl Haendel
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Wolfgang Tillmans
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Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
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Kenneth Tam
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The Rise
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Agnes Martin
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Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
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Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
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Mertzbau
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Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
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Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
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Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
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Claire Kennedy
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Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
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at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
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Launch Party Carla Issue 4
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Char Jansen
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Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
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Evan Holloway
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Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
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Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
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Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
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Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
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Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
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Share Your Piece
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Fred Tomaselli
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Trisha Donnelly
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Bradford Kessler
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Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
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Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
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Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
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Tongues Untied
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No Joke
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Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
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Monica Majoli
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White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
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Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
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Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
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Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
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Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
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at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
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Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Laura Owens at the Wattis Institute

(L.A. in S.F.)

 

Laura Owens, Untitled (detail) (2016). Acrylic, oil, Flashe, silkscreen inks, charcoal, pastel pencil, graphite, and sand on wallpaper. Image courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. © Laura Owens. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Laura Owens, Untitled (detail) (2016). Acrylic, oil, Flashe, silkscreen inks, charcoal, pastel pencil, graphite, and sand on wallpaper. Image courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. © Laura Owens. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

The current Laura Owens solo exhibition, Ten Paintings, at the Wattis Institute in San Francisco, is a perplexing visual poem. What are the “paintings,” and how are they paintings? The walls in the first room are plastered floor to ceiling in 70 clay-coated, silkscreened, drawn and painted-on sheets of paper. Throughout the space, there are architectural nods to both Owens’ studio space and the exhibition space itself. Overt and implied optical illusions abound, but Owens never regresses to impressing, and this is perhaps what is ultimately most impressive. The show has been rigorously conceived as a totalized environment, filled with repurposed works and reclaimed spam e-mails. It reveals hints of intimacy, and revels in advertisements for detachment.

Despite the lack of discrete canvases on display, Owens still insists on deeming the works “paintings.” This insistence feels equally sincere and satirical, and the motif carries on into the next room, where she includes a few (now) semi-signature paintings and a salon-style installation composed of pieces made by her own family members (her grandmother’s embroidery, her brother’s childhood drawings) along with a curious collection of other sundry small-scale two-dimensional works. Even when she deploys a gimmick—visitors can send text messages to the applied wallpaper, eliciting a robotic response—the result doesn’t feel forced; it feels time-sensitive.

This sensitivity to time (and timeliness) is astounding, and can be tied to one of the simpler statements that the curator, Anthony Huberman, makes about this work in his associated text: “Many tag Owens’s work as ‘Painting 2.0.’” Largely, this refers to Owens’ actual use of Photoshop, her emoji sculptures, and Instagram-influenced subject matter. The literalness of this angling (by both artist and curator) is timely; i.e., hashtags pointedly tend to have a quick expiration date. Owens though, unlike most other contemporary artists infatuated with the mimetic processes of online networks, has figured out a way to utilize the ephemeral nature of browsing and scrolling.

Owens has made herself gradually, and increasingly, available in her work, while also understanding and citing history (painting and otherwise) throughout her most recent exhibitions. In Ten Paintings, her incorporation of vintage local newspaper listings (via back issues of The Berkeley Barb) becomes an explicit micro gesture, whereas her construction of a flattened-out, pastel-infused black-and-white pixelated labyrinth of muddled content, evocative of the ethos of ‘70s conceptual art, is more of an implicit macro gesture. This holistic approach allows her to be as generous as possible with her audience, while simultaneously acknowledging the myopic solipsism of a solitary studio practice—a complexly self-aware balancing act.

Laura Owens, Untitled (Installation view) (2016). Acrylic, oil, Flashe, silkscreen inks, charcoal, pastel pencil, graphite, and sand on wallpaper. Image courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. © Laura Owens. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Laura Owens, Untitled (installation view) (2016). Acrylic, oil, Flashe, silkscreen inks, charcoal, pastel pencil, graphite, and sand on wallpaper. Image courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. © Laura Owens. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Huberman claims, “Objects, images, or videos need a frame or a context in order for them to seem like art. Painting doesn’t.” Of course, anyone can recognize a painting as art, and often, they do; but context affects painting as much as any other art form. If one’s aunt or uncle purchases a painting from a thrift store, it ends up in their living room. If Jim Shaw makes the same transaction, the painting ends up in the New Museum. Owens does not overlook this ironic reality. Each aspect of her practice—the application or execution of any given idea—illuminates or complicates the others.

Since Owens first came to prominence out of graduate school at CalArts in the late ‘90s, she has continued to push on painting, sometimes taking multiple left turns, and often landing at unpredictable destinations. Yet, it wasn’t until the recession hit in 2008, and many people seemed to give up on the market (and, with it, painting), that Owens really began to own the medium. In the face of futile impossibility, Owens went into full-on swagger mode and began building the framework for her most confident and ambitious works to date.

These ideas sharply coalesced three years ago when Owens exhibited a series of large new works, 12 Paintings (2013), as the inaugural show at her own (then) newly unveiled warehouse space, 356 Mission, in Los Angeles. These paintings were bold in their Pop art color schemes and directed compositions, and brash in their unflinching, unwavering laissez-faire attitude. This relentlessly multifarious yet deferential outlook on one’s own standing in a bigger, broader community—again on both the micro and macro level—ideally serves as a generative point to cycle through ideas in a profoundly productive manner. In principle, this malleable form of reflexivity comes with some distance—the harder one squints, the clearer the picture. Although, the risk one certainly runs with this strategy is that so much time will be spent naval-gazing that the individual will simply develop astigmatism.

In any case, the past few years have seen Owens’ specifically squinted vision willfully straddle the printed and digital, the real and virtual, the personal and professional with egotistical dexterity and assumed vulnerability. In an extremely tenuous election year, in which galleries are closing, auction houses are scrambling, artists are being taken advantage of, and another recession looms as a real possibility, alternatives seem to be the only source of hope. Owens here, at the top of her painting game, in a city presently so sure of solutions, proves once again, with “paintings,” that alternatives must be sought and (can be) found.

Laura Owens: Ten Paintings runs from April 28-July 23, 2016 at The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (360 Kansas St., San Francisco, CA 94103).

Laura Owens, Ten Paintings (detail) (2016). Image courtesy of the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Laura Owens, Ten Paintings (detail) (2016). Image courtesy of the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Laura Owens, Untitled (Installation view) (2016). Acrylic, oil, Flashe, silkscreen inks, charcoal, pastel pencil, graphite, and sand on wallpaper. Image courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. © Laura Owens. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Laura Owens, Untitled (installation view) (2016). Acrylic, oil, Flashe, silkscreen inks, charcoal, pastel pencil, graphite, and sand on wallpaper. Image courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. © Laura Owens. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

 

2016-07-12

Originally published in Carla Issue 5.