Based in Los Angeles, internationally renowned artist Laura Owens is widely celebrated for an experimental approach to painting that embraces a breadth of sources, from the avant-garde to the popular to the decorative. Over the past two and a half decades she has become one of the most influential painters of her generation. Owens grew up in Norwalk, Ohio, and as a teenager spent many hours studying the Cleveland Museum of Art’s encyclopedic collection.
From the earliest days of planning for this exhibition, Owens knew she wanted to collaborate with local teenagers, in order to connect her own past and present and to develop a show rooted in Cleveland. To this end, Owens has been working closely for a year and a half with high school students in the CMA’s Arts Mastery program, Currently Under Curation: Jamal Carter, Xyhair Davis, Skylar Fleming, Yomi Gonzalez, Joseph Hlavac, Agatha Mathoslah, Arica McKinney, Maya Peroune, and Deonta Steele. The exhibition’s central theme is time travel, represented through new and existing work by Owens. The exhibition also features objects from the CMA’s Education Art Collection, which includes more than 10,000 objects across time and from around the world designed to support student and community engagement through the study of original works of art.
Time travel has taken many forms throughout Owens’s work, and it relates to the premise of this exhibition in which the artist reflects on her own past and, in conversation with her teen collaborators, imagines new and future possibilities.
In the Transformer Station’s main gallery, time travel will be animated through iconic works by Owens that span her career. These will be shown alongside the artist’s own art from high school, which has never been publicly presented. The Crane gallery will feature a new site-specific installation of Owens’s handmade wallpaper. The starting point for the wallpaper was a discovery made by Owens and the curatorial team in the Education Art Collection. There, the team was quickly drawn to two early 20th-century woodblocks used for printing fabric. Working from 2-D and 3-D images of the blocks, Owens had the woodblocks replicated, and used their impressions in the wallpaper. Also integrated into the wallpaper is source material related to Owens’s work with the students, including clippings from old local high school newspapers found in the museum’s archives, fragments of Owens’s paintings selected by the students, and photographs of the student curators.
Laura Owens: Rerun will also feature other works from the Education Art Collection, selected because of their association with time travel, especially as it relates to memory. These include relief blocks for an ABC book and a cross-stitch sampler made by students from Cleveland’s Fairmont Junior High School in the 1920s. Cumulatively, the show creates a conversation among the work of teens from three different eras: the CUC students, as they develop this exhibition; Owens, through her paintings as a high schooler; and local teens from the more distant past.
Selected Student Journal Entries
Deonta Steele Time travel allows for teens and people in general to be able to see what came before them, and it’s only human to be curious about things that you do not know. Curiosity fuels exploration.
Yomi Gonzalez The idea of time travel is just fascinating. If I could go back to any time, it would be the ’60s into the early ’70s. It just seems like such an influential time, a time of change and opinions. I am a very outspoken person, and to be in a time when everyone decided to voice their concerns and take action is everything to me.
Agatha Mathoslah A huge portion of teen life is simultaneously trying to make decisions that will impact your entire future and trying to enjoy the last bits of responsibility-free childhood. You simultaneously want to hurry and grow up and to revert back to childhood. . . . I’d rather go back in time than forward because I’m scared of what I might see. Each era has something terrifying and awful in it.
Skylar Fleming Having normal conversations and being on text threads with Laura Owens is kind of intimidating but all-around fun.
Yomi Gonzalez I went from looking at this program like a hobby to looking at it like a family, especially with the final program working so close with everyone and working with Laura.
Agatha Mathoslah There are art historians now. Will there be meme historians?
Jamal Carter At the beginning, the intensity of the project gave me a scare. Laura is a mysterious person, so therefore I didn’t know what to expect. She let us start the conversation and let us have full control.
Joseph Hlavac Working with the Laura Owens cohort has been an eye-opening experience, from emailing, Skyping, and meeting with Laura to working with curators and looking behind the scenes at exhibitions.