Edited by Beatrix Ruf. Text by Rod Mangham, Beatrix Ruf, Gloria Sutton. Interviews by Alex Katz, Elizabeth Peyton, Mary Heilmann, Scott Rothkopf.
Laura Owens once said of more doctrinaire painters that "the weight of art history is what gets you…that crusty, stodgy feeling, when you look at a work of art and you feel that the person hasn't stepped outside, hasn't looked in other wings of the Met, hasn't gone to a natural history museum." There is no danger of that in her own good-natured and elegant works, which seem to emulate Rousseau, Grandma Moses and the aesthetics of the 1960s and of vintage decorative arts at once. Robots in the garden, lions, hunters, romance and war are some of the subjects parading through, under passing influences as wide ranging as Dada performance, Japanese prints and Hindu beliefs. Birds grow larger than the trees they perch on, cats sniff at a pair of skulls and monkeys exchange wary glances. Elsewhere, Owens has broken away from the fine arts to move into wallpaper and textiles. Beyond all this straightforward beauty is constant inquiry into her chosen media. She has rejected naturalism in favor of depiction, representation and an unashamed pleasure in ornamentation, which, with her delight in pictorial grace, affords decoration a new dignity. She combines the abstract with the representational in a highly personal vocabulary, from which she creates an elaborate, elegant and quietly exuberant whole. Laura Owens collects the artist's complete works to date.