Nancy Princenthal reviews a mid-career retrospective of Laura Owens’ work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, on view through February 4, 2018.
Princenthal writes: “What critics offer often in defense of abstract painting amounts to proclaiming its unique sincerity—the argument is that good painting is, perhaps singularly, unironic in its quest for transcendent perceptual experience. … I think what motivates a painter as agile as Owens is keeping the target moving. Though some forms of abstraction solicit a long, meditative gaze, we all know that in social situations, staring is rude. In Owens’s paintings, the surface won’t bear it. Her work’s value can’t be located in any stable place—in medium or support, form or concept, words or images, figuration or abstraction. It’s not handmade or fabricated or digital. It’s emergent, as some scientists say about consciousness, and as friends might say about friendship.”