Laura Owens, Untitled, 2016. Flashe and screen printing ink on dyed linen, 108 × 84 inches (274.3 × 213.4 cm). Promised gift of Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté. Courtesy the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome; Sadie Coles HQ, London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. © Laura Owens
Laura Owens is celebrated as one of the most innovative painters of our time, pushing the boundaries of the medium through her research of new materials, paints, and dyes, and through her incorporation of digital paint software and processes into her work. Owens’s work proposes a vital relationship between the physical process of painting and the circulation of digital images in the age of the Internet.
Most recently, Owens has begun exploring how different techniques and materials are related within a single painting. After a residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, she wondered whether an installation could happen inside of a painting. Untitled, 2016, is an example of this ambitious approach to painting. The ground layer is composed of a fine grid of pink and blue squares, dyed into the weave of the linen to create textile feel, and irregularly printed to suggest a patchy pixelated image. As is often the case in Owens’s work, this complex pattern has a popular source—the background from a Garfield cartoon. Other details—such as the pattern of lemons, the ship-in-a-bottle image, and the cartoon bubble—create uneasy relationships between seemingly foreign elements. A series of pictures within pictures, and motifs within motifs, fills the painting’s field to construct a formally and philosophically complex work.
Owens’s Untitled, 2016, adds a new depth to the ICA/Boston’s painting collection. It joins major paintings by artists such as Charline von Heyl and Sadie Benning that likewise address the threshold between abstraction and figuration through experimental painting practices.