On Partial View by Laura Owen

On my recent trip to New York, I visited the newly designed Whitney Museum. Not really knowing how the collections were organized, I went to the top and decided to work my way down. There was a family in the elevator with me and they also had the same plan. I told them, I was going to do the same. Then, surprisingly, they asked me if I had seen another exhibit in New York that was getting rave reviews. I didn’t want to blow my cover that I was a visiting Canadian, and said, not yet.

As we got off the elevator, the sheer size and space of the gallery is breath-taking. Not only do you have expansive views of the Hudson and the city (from the stairwell) but the artwork has room to breathe and interact with the viewer when you feel like you can do things at your own pace because of how space is designed.

Now wrapped up was Laura Owen’s exhibition On Partial View who “has pioneered an innovative approach to painting that has made her one of the most influential artists of her generation. Her bold and experimental work challenges traditional assumptions about figuration and abstraction, as well as the relationships among avant-garde art, craft, pop culture, and technology.” (Whitney website)

What drew me to her work was the playfulness and work you had to do to uncover the hidden meaning and message she was trying to portray. It was only until the security guard saw me struggle to find the right angle that he told me exactly where to stand to get the view I was looking for. And you’ll see by the picture I took it’s quite a humorous message.

This type of contemporary art is something that I don’t see very much in Canada. Yes, art is in the eye of the beholder. But sometimes it’s hard to understand the layers and messaging the majority of artists are trying to get across. I find it so serious. Meanwhile, Owen’s brings forth a sense of discovery and light-heartedness that breaks down a lot of barriers. I mean, when the security guard can articulate and understand what the viewer is trying to see it really speaks to the accessibility of the piece.

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