The Jewish Museum Announces New, Major Collection Exhibition to Open Fall 2017

The Jewish Museums long-running collection exhibition, Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey, originally mounted in 1993, recently close, making way for a major, new collection display, Scenes from the Collection, opening in Fall 2017. Culture and Continuity’s last day on view was Sunday, February 12, 2017.

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The Jewish Museum (New York) logo

The Jewish Museum‘s unparalleled collection spans 4,000 years of Jewish culture through nearly 30,000 objects, including painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts, ceremonial objects, antiquities, works on paper, and media. Scenes from the Collection will transform the Museum’s third floor and feature over 650 works from antiquities to contemporary art – many of which will be on view for the first time at the Museum. The exhibition was designed by Tsao & McKown Architects.

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Hanukkah Lamp, Orivit-Aktiengesellschaft (1900-1905), Köln-Braunsfeld (Germany), 1900-05. White metal: cast and silver-plated; glass: mold formed, 13⅞ x 12¾ x 5 5/16 in. (35.3 x 32.4 x 13.5 cm). The Jewish Museum, New York, Gift of Dr. Harry G. Friedman (?), F 3573.

The new exhibition will be divided into eight different sections, or scenes, highlighting the diversity and depth of the collection. The new installation will present the collection as a reflection of the continual evolution that is the essence of Jewish identity, as well as a powerful expression of artistic and cultural creativity.

Scenes from the Collection will immerse our visitors in a dynamic and engaging experience. Developed collaboratively among the Museum’s curatorial staff, the new installation is a reflection of the Jewish Museum’s unique position as an art museum exploring Jewish culture and identity through a contemporary lens,” said Claudia Gould, Helen Goldsmith Menschel Director of the Jewish Museum.

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Torah Binder, Rabat (Morocco), 19th century. Cotton: embroidered with silk thread, 9 1/2 × 103 3/4 in. (24.1 × 263.5 cm). The Jewish Museum, New York, Gift of Sonia Cohen Azagury, 2004-64.

In addition, Scenes from the Collection will be flexible, with four scenes changing annually, and one changing every six months, so that different subjects can be examined while more of the collection is on view. The stories the works of art tell will illuminate multiple perspectives on being Jewish in the past and present, how Jewish culture intersects with art and the art world, and how it is part of the larger world of global interconnections.

The eight scenes are:

Origins

Scenes from the Collection will start from the beginning – the year 1904 when the Museum was founded with a gift of ceremonial objects from Judge Mayer Sulzberger. Central to this section will be the question of what, why, and how the Museum has collected and what this says about the changing identity of the institution, the Jewish community, and the art world.

Constellations

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Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949), Woman Listening to Radio, 1978. Gelatin silver print, sheet: 7 15/16 × 9 15/16 in. (20.2 × 25.2 cm); image: 5 3/16 × 8 in. (13.2 × 20.3 cm). The Jewish Museum, New York, Purchase: Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, 2013-1. © Laurie Simmons, image courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

In “Constellations,” over 50 of the most visually powerful and culturally significant works in the collection – from antiquities to the twenty-first century – will be exhibited as individual gems but with powerful thematic connections to one another. Such issues will be explored as transforming and transcending tradition, cultural distinctiveness and universality, and ever-changing notions of identity. Groups of works will relate to each other aesthetically or contextually, creating multiple conversations. For example, three works that can be seen as challenging tradition are Peter Blume’s Pig’s Feet and Vinegar (1927), Laurie SimmonsWoman Listening to Radio (1978), and Nicole Eisenman’s Seder (2011).

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Nicole Eisenman (American, b. France, 1965), Seder, 2010. Oil on canvas, 39 1/16 × 48 in. (99.2 × 121.9 cm). The Jewish Museum, New York, Purchase Lore Ross Bequest; Milton and Miriam Handler Endowment Fund; and Fine Arts Acquisitions Committee Fund, 2011-3 © Nicole Eisenman.

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Everson Museum of Art Opens “Bradley Walker Tomlin: A Retrospective,” a Major Retrospective Exhibition of the Syracuse Native

The Everson Museum of Art, in partnership with the Dorsky Museum, presents the first retrospective of American painter Bradley Walker Tomlin (1899-1953)

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Bradley Walker Tomlin, As They Walked Along Together, 1921 Pencil, ink, and gouache on paper, 14 in x 1 ¼ in. Everson Museum of Art Gift of Isabelle McConnel

since 1975. This major exhibition, including more than 40 paintings, works on paper, and printed materials, charts Tomlin’s development from Art Nouveau illustrations of the 1920s to large-scale Abstract Expressionist paintings of the 1950s, for which he is best known. Bradley Walker Tomlin: A Retrospective will be on view February 11 May 14, 2017. The exhibition originated at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, the State University of New York at New Paltz and is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalog.

Born in Syracuse, NY in 1899 and active in New York City and Woodstock, Tomlin bridged two generations and participated in the evolution of American art from local modernism to international avant-garde. 

He participated in the famous ‘’Ninth Street Show.’’ According to John I. H. Baur, Curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, “Tomlin’s life and his work were marked by a persistent, restless striving toward perfection, in a truly classical sense of the word, towards that “inner logic” of form which would produce a total harmony, an unalterable rightness, a

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Bradley Walker Tomlin. Photograph by Eugene Reynal

sense of miraculous completion…It was only during the last five years of his life that the goal was fully reached, and his art flowered with a sure strength and authority”.

Organized chronologically, Bradley Walker Tomlin: A Retrospective considers Tomlin’s accomplishments as an illustrator, educator, and modern painter as equally significant. Highlights include original cover designs for Condé Nast’s House & Garden magazine, decorative still life paintings, Cubist-Surrealist compositions, and major Abstract Expressionist canvases. Photographs of Tomlin and his professional peers and related archival materials reveal the artist’s contexts and influences.

A century ago, Syracuse native Bradley Walker Tomlin was considered one of the city’s most promising young artists. This exhibition not only serves to restore attention to a hometown talent but more importantly, to shed new light on a fascinating yet overlooked figure in the history of modern American art,” says Elizabeth Dunbar, Director, and CEO of the Everson Museum of Art Continue reading

Richard Lawson And Tina Knowles Lawson Build New Non-Profit WACO Theater Center In Los Angeles

Venue To Be Home Of Richard Lawson Studios, Mentorship Programs, Mobile Theater, Stage Productions And Empowerment Classes

WACO To Launch With Inaugural Wearable Art Gala On April 29, 2017 At The California African American Museum

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Solange Knowles, Bianca Lawson And Kelly Rowland to Serve as Honorary Chairpersons

Dreams do not have an expiration date, and that is what we plan to instill in our students at WACO Theater Center.”Richard Lawson

Actor and master acting teacher, Richard Lawson, and fashion designer, art collector and philanthropist Tina Knowles Lawson have joined forces to establish the new WACO Theater Center in Los Angeles. As founders of the recently built non-profit art and performance center, the husband and wife team are kicking off the occasion with the First Annual Wearable Art Gala. The charitable event is set to take place at the California African American Museum (CAAM) on Saturday, April 29, 2017 in Los Angeles.

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RICHARD LAWSON & TINA KNOWLES LAWSON

We are truly thrilled to establish a new creative center in Los Angeles where art can occur,” Tina Knowles Lawson says, alluding to WACO’s acronym. “The purpose of this endeavor is empowering people to gain the skills and ability to identify and pursue their dreams no matter who they are or where they came from. It is also to give both professional and non-professional actors, artists and youth a place to celebrate their own talent and artistry.” Richard Lawson adds, “WACO is our dream come true.”

Richard Lawson has a long and distinguished career as an actor and master teacher that spans five decades. His first professional job was in the national company of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Charles Gordone, No Place to Be Somebody. Some of his selected films include Steven Spielberg‘s Poltergeist, Walter Hill‘s Streets of Fire, Stick with Burt Reynolds, The Main Event with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, Coming Home with Jane Fonda and Jon Voight, Audrey Rose with Anthony Hopkins and Marsha Mason, Wag the Dog, starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Angela Bassett, Guess Who, starring Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, and For Colored Girls, directed by Tyler Perry.

As an acting and teaching protégé of Milton Katselas, one the finest and most respected acting teachers in the world, Lawson recognized a hole in the teaching model and went on to create the Richard Lawson Studios (RLS).

Using a complete approach to acting that includes traditional scene study as well as audition technique, RLS integrates on-camera instruction, filmmaking, and business administration into a comprehensive course of study. State-of-the-art computer technology is applied to his time-tested acting techniques. Lawson imparts his 46 years of experience as a successful actor, teacher, public speaker, and drug counselor for the National Basketball Association to motivate and empower artists and non-artists alike, professionals, job-seekers and regular people to achieve their creative goals. (For more information about Richard Lawson, visit http://www.richardlawson.net)

Tina Knowles Lawson is a fashion designer who has been featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, L’official, InStyle, and Sports Illustrated. Knowles Lawson was a designer and stylist for the superstar group Destiny’s Child, creating original garments for the tours, magazine shoots and television appearances, including The VMAs, BET Awards, and the Grammys. She has also designed for her daughter Beyoncé’s tours and television performances, including The Academy Awards. Together, they created three successful clothing lines; House of Deréon, Deréon, and the Miss Tina line. Knowles Lawson has hosted a show on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) and her work has been featured on “Good Morning America”, “The View”, “The Today Show”, “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, “Hollywood Access Live”, “Tyra” and “Ellen”. Knowles Lawson has also designed costumes for a number of hit movies including Dreamgirls, Pink Panther, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Obsessed and Cadillac Records.

Passionate about her philanthropic endeavors, Knowles Lawson, her family and Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland along with St. John’s Church has built and established a center for young people known as The Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth located in Houston, Texas. Tina Knowles Lawson’s philanthropic endeavors include the Knowles-Temenos Place Apartments, sponsored by the Knowles family’s Survivor Foundation, which offers temporary living for those in need of shelter; and, in partnership with her daughter, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, the Beyoncé Cosmetology Center at Phoenix House in Brooklyn, New York which empowers women to develop creative skills in the cosmetology trade and to carry their talent into the professional world.

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WACO Theater Center logo

She was also one of the faces of Miss A Meal, a program founded by Rudy and Juanita Rasmus, to eradicate hunger in the Houston area. For her work, Knowles Lawson has been the recipient of the prestigious Ace Awards, the International Global Leadership Award, and the Golden Hanger Award. The University of Houston and the Texas Women’s Empowerment Foundation (TWEF) have recognized Knowles Lawson for her philanthropic work and achievements in business. A natural teacher and adviser, she makes time to speak regularly at schools and mentors young women. Now relocated to Los Angeles, her philanthropic spirit has come with her and together with her husband, Richard Lawson, they have established the WACO Theatre Center.

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First Annual Wearable Art Gala Poster

For the inaugural Wearable Art Gala, the Lawsons looked no further than their own family to help bring attention to their mission. Thus, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Solange Knowles, Bianca Lawson and Kelly Rowland will serve as the Gala’s Honorary Chairpersons. The evening will include live and silent auctions and guests will be invited to explore the CAAM‘s galleries and exhibitions. The museum serves as the ideal venue for the Gala and for wearable arts to be feted by guests dressing in art and original fashion designs. The wearable art movement is surging now due to fashion designers such as Knowles Lawson who bring greater attention to wearable art pieces by encouraging patrons to be creative and design their own wearable art. The Gala will be dedicated to the arts.

From performance, fashion, music, and the visual arts, including painting and sculpting, it’s never too late to develop and cultivate talent,” says Lawson. “Dreams do not have an expiration date, and that is what we plan to instill in our students at WACO Theater Center.” Continue reading

Art News: Whitney Announces 2017 Biennial Film Program

A Broad Range Of Moving Image Artists To Be Shown In The 2017 Biennial’s Film Program

A series of film screenings and conversations will be presented as part of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art on March 17. The series takes place over ten consecutive weekends, from March 17 through May 21, 2017, in the Susan and John Hess Family Theater on the Museum’s third floor. Each Sunday, the 3 pm screening will be followed by a conversation with the filmmakers, joined by writers, curators, and scholars.

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Leslie Thornton (b. 1951) and James Richards (b. 1983), still from Crossing, 2016. High-definition video, color, sound; 19:10 min. Courtesy the artists

Film program co-curator and Biennial advisor Aily Nash notes: “At once radical and quiet, global and intimate, the works presented in the 2017 Whitney Biennial film program continue to reflect on the urgent themes seen in the exhibition. These artists are some of the most exciting voices working in moving image today. They engage the medium with formal rigor and innovation while exploring the subjective and affective experiences of the contemporary political and social moment. The broad range of artists spans generations and approaches to the moving image including documentary practice, experimental film, narrative cinema, and video installation.”

Featured artists are Basma Alsharif, Eric Baudelaire, Robert Beavers, Mary Helena Clark, Kevin Jerome Everson, Sky Hopinka, Dani Leventhal, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Cauleen Smith, Leslie Thornton and James Richards, Leilah Weinraub, and James N. Kienitz Wilkins. See a complete schedule at whitney.org.

The formation of self and the individual’s place in a turbulent society are among the key themes reflected in the work of the artists selected for the 2017 Whitney Biennial. The exhibition includes sixty-three participants, ranging from emerging to well-established individuals and collectives working in painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, film and video, photography, activism, performance, music, and video game design.16_biennial_gif_web_2340px_fullstart_2340

With a history of exhibiting the most promising and influential artists and provoking debate, the Whitney Biennial—the Museum’s signature exhibition—is the longest running survey of contemporary art in the United States. The Biennial, an invitational show of work produced in the preceding two years, was introduced by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1932, and it is the longest continuous series of exhibitions in the country to survey recent developments in American art.

The 2017 Whitney Biennial will be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue, designed by Olga Casellas Badillo of San Juan–based Tiguere Corp., which includes essays by the curators as well as Biennial advisors Negar Azimi and Gean Moreno, a conversation between the curators and Scott Rothkopf, and a roundtable with filmmakers moderated by Aily Nash. The book will also feature individual entries on each of the sixty-three participants in the exhibition along with reproductions of their work. It will be published by the Whitney Museum of American Art and distributed by Yale University Press.The Whitney Logo

The 2017 Whitney Biennial is co-curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks Continue reading

Annenberg Space For Photography Presents Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield, April 8, 2017-August 13, 2017

Exhibit Spans Two-and-a-Half Decades of Work by Photographer and Filmmaker Lauren Greenfield And A Visual History of the Growing Obsession with Wealth That Has Come to Define a Generation

On April 8, 2017, the Annenberg Space for Photography will premiere GENERATION WEALTH by Lauren Greenfield, a multimedia exhibit by internationally acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield that investigates the global obsession with wealth over the last 25 years. Through a collection of 195 color-saturated prints, 42 riveting first-person interviews, multimedia projections and short films, Greenfield creates a revelatory cultural exhibition that documents the values of materialism, celebrity culture, social status and media saturation that have touched nearly every corner of the globe.

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Jackie and friends with Versace handbags at a private opening at the Versace store, Beverly Hills, California, 2007. © Lauren Greenfield (image from the Annenberg Space for Photography exhibition, Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield)

There’s no hiding from the eye of a truly great photographer. Lauren Greenfield has given us nothing short of an x-ray of our ambitions and ideals. In all of contemporary photography, no one is better at exploring the tension between what we covet and who we really are—between the mad dash for affluence and the price we pay for that pursuit,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “To me, Lauren Greenfield is so much more than a groundbreaking artist; she’s a sociologist, a storyteller, an ironist and a keen humorist. This is a wonderful, timely, thought-provoking body of work and, now more than ever, it’s one we all need to see.”

The exhibit marks Greenfield’s third collaboration with the Annenberg Space for Photography and first solo exhibit. In March 2009, Greenfield was chosen to be a featured photographer in the venue’s inaugural exhibition, L8S ANG3LES, which explored the lives and rituals of the youth of Los Angeles. In May 2011, Greenfield was a featured photographer in the Beauty CULTure exhibit and was also commissioned by the Annenberg Foundation to direct a 30-minute documentary film about the subject, investigating our obsession with beauty and the influence of photographic representations of the beauty landscape.

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Ilona, a photographer and former model originally from Latvia, in the mezzanine library of her home, which so far contains only copies of a self-published book of her fashion photographs, Moscow, 2012. © Lauren Greenfield (image from the Annenberg Space for Photography exhibition, Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield)

The photographer’s latest collaboration, GENERATION WEALTH by Lauren Greenfield, is a multi-platform project that started in L.A. 25 years ago with Fast Forward, her exploration of the lives of young Angelenos growing up in a media-saturated society and their relationships with money and celebrity. In 2008, she revisited this evocative milieu with a short film, kids + money, which was selected by the Sundance Film Festival and broadcast on HBO. In 2012, she returned to Sundance with the opening night film The Queen of Versailles, which documents a Florida family’s efforts to build the largest house in America against the backdrop of the economic crisis. After a sensational opening at Sundance, the film was acquired by Magnolia Pictures and Greenfield was honored with Sundance’s Best Director Award. This work serves as the basis for many of the themes Greenfield has continued to explore throughout her career: consumerism, media influence, gender and self-esteem, and the pervasive quest for the American Dream. Since the success of The Queen of Versailles, Greenfield’s journey has taken her across America and beyond, revealing stories of students, single parents, and families overwhelmed by crushing debt yet determined to purchase luxury homes, cars and clothing. From Bel-Air to Monaco, Russia, and China, Greenfield exposes a pervasive aspirational gap between what we want and what we can afford and reveals a consumer appetite unprecedented in human history. Her #LikeAGirl video was seen by 214 million global viewers and garnered more than 100 awards.

Coinciding with the exhibition, Phaidon will publish the highly anticipated monograph Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth (May 15, 2017), an extraordinary visual history of rampant materialism and our growing obsession with wealth. Beginning April 8, the Annenberg Space for Photography will serve as the exclusive retailer of the book before its wide international release.

GENERATION WEALTH documents a seismic shift in values and in the concept of the American Dream,” Greenfield explains. “Beginning in Los Angeles in the ’90s, I examined the ‘influence of affluence’ as media and globalization exported our notions of success around the world. The title of the project and some of the pic­tures could mislead the reader to think that this is a work about the one percent, about people who are wealthy. It is not. This work is about the aspi­ration for wealth and how that has become a driving force—and at the same time an increasingly unrealistic goal—for individuals from all classes of society. Bringing together 25 years of analog and digital photography, interviews, and filmmaking, I could never have realized this mammoth undertaking without the incredible support and encouragement of Wallis Annenberg, who is an unparalleled champion of artists and with whom I have been grateful to collaborate with on three exhibitions. The story of GENERATION WEALTH began in Los Angeles and I am deeply honored to debut this work in my hometown.”

The Annenberg Space for Photography is a cultural destination dedicated to exhibiting both digital and print photography in an intimate environment. The space features state-of-the-art, high-definition digital technology as well as traditional prints by some of the world’s most renowned photographers and a selection of emerging photographic talents as well. The venue, an initiative of the Annenberg Foundation and its trustees, is the first solely photographic cultural destination in the Los Angeles area, and it creates a new paradigm in the world of photography.

First Retrospective in 20 Years of Master Photographer Irving Penn, Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty, Opens February 24 at Nashville’s Frist Center

Irving Penn (1917–2009), known for his iconic fashion, portrait and still life images that appeared in Vogue magazine, ranks as one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and influential photographers. The first retrospective of his work in 20 years, Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty conveys the extraordinary breadth and legacy of the American artist and will be on view at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts from February 24 to May 29, 2017.

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Irving Penn. Young Boy, Pause Pause, American South, 1941, printed 2001. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. © The Irving Penn Foundation

Organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Merry Foresta, the museum’s curator of photography from 1983 to 1999, the exhibition contains more than 140 photographs, including the debut of 100 photographs recently donated by The Irving Penn Foundation and several previously unseen or never-before-exhibited photographs. Penn’s renown as a fashion photographer is matched by the recognition of his innovative and insightful portraits, still lifes, nudes, and travel photographs. The exhibition features work from all stages of Penn’s career, including street scenes from the late 1930s, photographs of the American South from the early 1940s, celebrity portraits, fashion photographs, and Penn’s stunning late color work.

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Irving Penn. Bee, New York, 1995, printed 2001. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. © The Irving Penn Foundation

In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Penn’s aesthetic and technical skill earned him accolades in both the artistic and commercial worlds. He was a master of both black-and-white and color photography, and his revival of platinum printing in the 1960s and 1970s was a catalyst for significant change in the art world. He successfully crossed the chasm that separated magazine and fine-art photography, narrowing the gap between art and fashion. “Penn adopted a workmanlike approach to making pictures,'” says Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala.But even in his most commercial images, he upended convention with a penchant for formal surprise.”

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Irving Penn. Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech, 1951, printed 1969. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist. © Condé Nast

Schooled in painting and design, Penn eventually chose photography as his life’s work. His portraits and fashion photographs defined elegance, yet throughout his career, he also transformed mundane objects—storefront signs, food, cigarette butts, street debris—into memorable images of unexpected, often surreal, beauty.

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Irving Penn. Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990, printed 1992. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. © The Irving Penn Foundation

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The Whitney To Present Mid-Career Survey Of The Work Of Laura Owens

In November 2017, the Whitney Museum of American Art will open the most comprehensive survey to-date of the work of Los Angeles–based painter Laura Owens (b. 1970), one of the foremost artists of her generation. Organized by Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, in close collaboration with the artist, this exhibition will be the first mid-career survey in the Whitney’s new downtown home. It will run from mid-November 2017 through early February 2018. Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation.

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Laura Owens, Untitled, 2014. Ink, silkscreen ink, vinyl paint, acrylic, oil, pastel, paper, wood, solvent transfers, stickers, handmade paper, thread, board, and glue on linen and polyester, five parts: 138 1/8 × 106 ½ x 2 5/8 in. (350.8 × 270.5 × 6.7 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from Jonathan Sobel 2014.281a-e. © Laura Owens

For more than twenty years, Laura Owens has pioneered an innovative—and at times controversial—approach to painting that challenges traditional assumptions about the nature of figuration and abstraction, the relationships among avant-garde art, craft, and pop culture, and the interplay between painting and contemporary technologies. Owens emerged on the Los Angeles art scene shortly after completing her studies at the California Institute of the Arts in 1994, at a time when painting was viewed with suspicion by the academic establishment and many of her peers favored more conceptual approaches to art-making. Owens bucked this prevailing trend with a series of large-scale canvases marked by their grand ambition on the one hand, and their incorporation of humbler, low-key marks and subjects on the other, merging abstraction with goofy personal allusions, as well as materials that seemed more the province of craft stores than the fine arts. References to cartooning, doodling, and a high-pitch, sometimes pastel palette served as further irritants to ingrained painterly pieties.

Over the ensuing decade Owens established herself as a key voice pushing painting towards a new conception of site-specificity grounded in the social, poetic, and architectural conditions of a particular place. Early on, she demonstrated a keen interest in how paintings function in a given room and used trompe-l’oeil techniques to extend the plane of a wall or floor directly into the illusionistic space of her pictures. These canvases often featured paintings within paintings and sometimes paintings within those, creating an effect of Russian nesting dolls that confused the boundaries of actual and pictorial space, as well as reality and representation. Owens’s approach offered a highly original conception of how a portable painting might allude to its initial setting (and its siblings in a series) while nevertheless remaining distinct from it, unlike the in situ wall paintings of previous generations. These works demonstrate a self-conscious and reflexive relationship to the physical world they occupy, while opening, almost paradoxically, onto a lush space of reverie, conjecture, and play.

Owens’s interest in American folk art, historical tapestries, and other vernacular forms led her to fill her canvases with imagery and materials, such as felt appliqué and needlework, that were anathema to more serious discourses on painting and to some of her critical commentators. Yet this non-hierarchical and omnivorous approach to source material and technique allowed her to push painting forward and to engage broader social issues in surprising ways. In the aftermath of the United States’s call to war following the events of 9/11, Owens turned to almost childlike depictions of nineteenth-century American soldiers and medieval images of knights to address our increasingly bellicose national conversation. Her longstanding preoccupation with supposedly “feminine” colors and motifs from charming animals to infantile gestures, as well as her allusions to romantic love and motherhood (including the incorporation within her work of her own children’s drawings and stories) has led to a disruptive rethinking of feminism in art.

Over the past five years, Owens has charted a dramatic transformation in her work, marshaling all of her previous interests and talents within large-scale paintings that make virtuosic use of silkscreen, computer manipulation, digital printing, and material exploration. Wild blown-up brushstrokes push off finely printed appropriations from newspapers and other media sources; actual wheels or mechanical devices like clock hands spin across a painting’s surface; images shuttle between the physical and virtual worlds to arrive back on canvas magically transfigured by their journey. In a 2015 Berlin exhibition, Owens precisely positioned a group of five, large, freestanding paintings in a staggered row so that from a specific vantage the writing on their surfaces resolved into a unified image in the eye. The following year she created an installation at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco where paintings were embedded within walls covered in custom-printed wallpaper. Visitors were encouraged to interact with the installation by sending text messages to various numbers that triggered elliptical spoken replies broadcast by hidden speakers. Such bold experimentation with painting, sculpture, reference, and process have made Owens an important exemplar for younger generations of artists, many of whom cite her work as a key touchstone. Furthermore, she is a co-founder and programmer of 356 S. Mission Rd., a collaborative art gallery, bookstore, and event space that hosts regular exhibitions, readings, and screenings and has become a crucial gathering place and beacon for the Los Angeles art community and beyond. Continue reading