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Bill Owens

James Cohan Gallery
533 West 26th Street, 212-714-9500
June 26 - August 1, 2008
Reception: Thursday, June 26, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
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James Cohan Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition by California-based artist, Bill Owens. This is the artist’s second solo show at the gallery. Owens’ work has gathered a cult following since the 1960s by exploring the peculiarities behind the everyday rituals of American life, revealing the far-out in the familiar. His widely acclaimed 1970s photo series, Suburbia, documented Americans’ mass migration to the suburbs, and was followed by other investigations of the day-to-day— focusing on Americans at work and play, their occupations, leisure activities and political leanings.

The exhibition will present a selection from several collections spanning Bill Owens’ career. The main gallery will include images from the 1970s photo series, Working – I do it for the Money, soon to be re-released by publisher, Fotofolio, Inc., in a new eponymous book. Working is Owens’ corollary to his previous collections, Suburbia and Leisure, in which he trained his lens on a diverse cast of characters at work, from a child selling flowers at a roadside stand, to a pizza man tossing a hand-made crust, to Shell Oil employees on strike. These seminal publications not only established Owens as a reputed photographer, but also influenced following generations of artists, including Gregory Crewdson, Katy Grannan, Wes Anderson, A.M. Homes and Paul Thomas Anderson. As Crewdson states in his essay for the re-publication of Suburbia, “Owens’ photographs find unexpected beauty and mystery within the American vernacular. This collision between normality and strangeness transforms the American landscape into a place of wonder and anxiety.”

The second gallery will feature a selection of images from anti-war protest marches and veteran parades. These images are portraits of individual subjects and also capture the polarization of the collective American experience at this explosive time. Owens’ iconic images of anti-war flag and draft card burnings strike a sharp contrast to images of World War II and Vietnam veterans brimming full of patriotic pride.

In his most recent series of photographs, Owens focuses his lens once more on middle-class life, exploring the ways the suburban landscape and American identity have both evolved and stayed the same over four decades of vast social and political change. Owens reminds us that in everyday America, the tragic, the comic, the mundane, the fervent, the wacky and the perverse live side by side. His subjects are his neighbors and ours, and he documents them all with characteristic irony, compassion and humor.
Have photos of this show? Tag them with artcal-7480 to see them here.