Laura Owens speaks volumes with her Matthew Marks Gallery show


Final year, Laura Owens went major.

Her midcareer survey, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, filled six significant galleries and a couple of extended hallways at the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles with additional than 60 paintings (and matching furnishings) she had created given that the mid-1990s. Flamboyant and grand, the L.A. artist’s exhibition went toe-to-toe with billboards, normally stopping guests in their tracks and creating us feel differently about the image-saturated reality we inhabit.

This year, Owens has gone little.

At Matthew Marks Gallery in West Hollywood, “Books and Tables” presents the handmade books and custom-made tables Owens has created more than the final year. Her quiet, bookstore-style installation turns its back on the eye-grabbing dynamics of social media — and the heavyweight expectations of mural-scaled paintings — to make area for experiences that unfold gradually and subtly, gently and freely, casually and intimately.

Laura Owens’ “Books and Tables” installation is at Matthew Marks Gallery through Jan. 25.

Laura Owens’ “Books and Tables” installation is at Matthew Marks Gallery via Jan. 25.

(Annik Wetter / Laura Owens / Matthew Marks Gallery)

On six tables in 4 rooms Owens has arranged 90 books. Her inventory is extraordinary: Flip books, kids’ books and how-to books can be discovered amongst beautifully reprinted diaries, handmade scrapbooks and hand-drawn songbooks. Bee, bird and turtle books rest subsequent to books about ants, horses and wildflowers, as effectively as volumes focused on cats, carrots and creampuff makers.

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Forgers, gas lighters and the U.S. president inform their tales in books arranged about bootleg versions of an out-of-print catalog Owens published years ago. Also reproduced on wonderfully textured pages — in a assortment of typefaces and ink colors — are ancient treatises about spirits, apparitions and witchcraft, as effectively as fortune-telling, dream evaluation and other magical practices.

Image books figure prominently. Some function eye-popping reproductions of ads for candy cigarettes, frosted doughnuts and double-decker hamburgers. Other folks depict ghosts, gravestones and cemeteries in pencil, pastel and watercolor. Owens also employs glitter, sand and coffee grounds to illustrate her one particular-of-a-sort publications.

Her imagery is similarly freewheeling. Cartoon skeletons, romantic ravens and references to the reality of the Battle of Bataan (and its horrifying aftermath) make for an exhibition that invites the imagination to leap and bound.

Another detail from Owens’ “Books and Tables” at Matthew Marks Gallery.

One more detail from Owens’ “Books and Tables” at Matthew Marks Gallery.

(Annik Wetter/Laura Owens / Matthew Marks Gallery)

There’s as well significantly to see. Some of Owens’ books contain adequate drawings, watercolors and paintings on paper to be an exhibition unto itself. Other folks contain audio and video. Nonetheless other people are bound so beautifully you cannot enable but feel of them as sculptures. That is especially accurate of the ones that fold out, like maps or accordions, and the pop-up books, which are filled with so several surprises that it is straightforward to get lost in their nooks and crannies.

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That knowledge — of becoming no cost to shed oneself in aimless reverie — is constructed into Owens’ tables. All have drawers that open to reveal additional books. Some of the drawers have drawers. Appropriately, and poetically, Owens’ drawers-inside-drawers residence books-inside-books.

As you immerse oneself in their information, strange issues come about about you. Eight volumes slide gradually across one particular tabletop, randomly stopping and beginning. Dots of light dance across other tabletops, creating it appear as if your eyes are playing tricks on you. And videos seem on adjoining walls subsequent to one particular table, creating you wonder if you could be hallucinating.

At a time when the quantity of bookstores is dwindling, and persons appear to race via exhibitions quicker than ever, it is heartening — and satisfying — to take a look at Owens’ antidote.

Another of view of Owens’ “Books and Tables” at Matthew Marks Gallery.

One more of view of Owens’ “Books and Tables” at Matthew Marks Gallery.

(Annik Wetter / Laura Owens / Matthew Marks Gallery

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