The untitled diptych by Laura Owens in the Brandhorst collection is based on layouts from the “Los Angeles Times” from 1942. Sometimes impasto brushstrokes overlay the texts and delicate drawings. The shadows of some brushstrokes are printed, newspaper articles and pictures have been edited and partly replaced by information of a more recent date.
Laura Owens lives in an old house in Los Angeles. One day by accident she found a special sealing material under the siding of the walls: a set of paper-mache printing molds from the 1940s of the “Los Angeles Times”. The newspaper had used those molds to cast printing cylinders. With those in turn, they printed their issues. Apparently, later somebody had repurposed them as insulation – almost like a secret treasure for Laura. She studied the molds and the untitled diptych (2015) in the Brandhorst Collection is one outcome of those experiments.
Laura Owens was fascinated by what she found and experimented with the printing molds. She reprinted the layouts, made scans of those prints, and then digitally manipulated the files on her computer to create the images that where screen-printed onto the canvas. Over those screen-prints, she then worked by hand in oil paint and charcoal. She made several paintings based on what she had found.
When a painting consists of two parts, it is called a diptych. The word comes from the Greek and means “folded twice.” Diptychs are known in Western culture mainly as Christian altarpieces.
There are two marks on the bottom-left of the right panel that were first drawn on the computer, then Laura Owens hand-painted over their confines in blue using masks drawn on the computer. Can you find them?
Laura Owens uses painting tools from analog and digital eras, mixing old and new.
Where have elements from more recent history slipped in?
Have you ever tried transferring motives from analog to digital, from digital to analog and back again? Maybe you want to experiment with the different options analog and digital techniques offer you, like Laura does?
In her “laboratory,” Laura tests the limits of painting. She blows up the newspaper pages to an enormous size, experiments and makes changes, works with light, shade and repetition.
Can you distinguish what has been painted, drawn, or printed? Which marks look hand-painted and which look like they have been drawn on a computer? And what in this picture has been digitally manipulated? How do the marks move your eyes over the canvas and what effect does this have on the work overall or on your reception of it?
Talk about it
As viewers, we are challenged by images—even physically. In order to explore them, we have to pace along them, move away from them and come up closer to them once again.
Where is the best vantage point to keep an overview?