Laura Owens ( American, 1970 )

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General Description

In Untitled, a surreal, marvelously weird world is depicted. The branches of an old, decaying, and anthropomorphic tree house a menagerie: owl, bat, dog, cat, doe, duck, dove, and fish. In the background, two large ships sail on rolling waves similar to the billowing clouds in the sky above. In obscuring reality through her blurring of land and sea, day and night, distortion of scale, and versatile gesture, this fantastical scene could exist as much in a dream as a children's book. Within this work, Owens moves easily and freely from representation to abstraction, cleverly combining different painting techniques. The tree is collaged, the falling leaves are impasto, the spider webs are applied directly from a tube of black paint, and the moonlight sky is formed from staining of the canvas. Through the breadth of art historical knowledge Owens brings to her practice, we find reference to many genres, unleashing her imagination to reveal a world that borders on the imaginary, perhaps less than benevolent, with the dramatic effect of a visual storyteller.

Adapted from

  • Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ed., TWO X TWO X TWENTY: Two Decades Supporting Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art), 2018, 74.

  • Suzanne Weaver, DMA unpublished material, 2005.

Fun Facts

  • This work was a part of the 2004 Whitney Biennial.

  • The New Yorker art critic and poet Peter Schejeldahl enthusiastically stated, "I had an epiphany while looking at a large painting by Laura Owens...It struck me as an installation piece pulled flat. Why go to the trouble of deploying things in real space when, with painting, you can make their essences comprehensible at a glance? As a bonus, if you're Owens, you can enhance the encounter with hauntingly sophisticated color.

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