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Nancy Hoffman Gallery opens an exhibition of paintings by Frank Owen
Installation view.

NEW YORK, NY.- Retrospection is an act of looking back. It is a mental process of remembering done in the hope that those recalled facts and experiences might enrich the present and the future. As a painter who has long relied on creating and using multiple image events to be collaged into my paintings, I am always looking back at my form inventory. As someone in the eighth decade of life, I often recall memories, excitements and, occasionally, instances of "Whew." This exhibition is the 12th with my dealer and friend of 51 years, Nancy Hoffman. It is a two-part combination of work. The first is a group of paintings that measure 50 x 40 inches from 2017 to present. I undertook to make smaller pieces as a necessary response to shoulder surgery gone wrong. It became apparent that continuing at this smaller scale was the best path. Plus, it proposed an exploratory quest of my images, means of making and imagination. It shall continue.

In the middle and backroom are a selection of paintings from past exhibitions. This will give them a chance to be seen again and perhaps provoke retrospection. When I look back at my career several recollections repeat. One is the exciting period of painting I was born into. As a Life Magazine gazer at age ten, I remember being struck by the assertion in August,1949, that a man named Pollock "was America's greatest artist." On the way to Antioch College, in 1957, I visited the Chicago Art Institute and viewed the "63rd American Exhibition" and saw my first Philip Guston. I was proud to have work included in the "71st edition.” I recall with satisfaction and wonder my period of living and working in Soho in the '70s. There was a vibrant group of young (and older) artists that I connected with as we all attempted to counter the assertion that "painting is dead." There was the time Nancy Hoffman had to tell me that my loft was burning when I arrived from a semester teaching in Virginia. I came with a truck load of new paintings just a week before my first show at her gallery in 1981. That was a "Whew" moment. It resulted in my family moving to the Adirondack village where my wife grew up.

The early paintings, with one exception, date from the decades since the fire. They all employ a set of techniques that involve working in verso, that is from front to back. In the late 1970s, I invented a technique of carving and layering a table top bed of oil-based sculptor's clay. The next step would be to paint it with acrylic paints and build up layers until there was a uniform surface that could have canvas glued to it. That combination could be mounted on a stretcher frame. Painting on the front sometimes took place. The next development was and remains, a "verso" technique. Now, however, the painting is made on sheets of industrial polyethylene. Marks, forms, color layers, printed or photocopy transfers are collaged on with clear acrylic medium. Layers of different visual densities build up. Everything that is done has to be remembered (sometimes photographed). It is always something of a surprise when the painting is mounted, pulled, stretched and turned around for viewing.

My career has been shaped by the advent of acrylic water-based artist paints. I like oil paint too, but the adventures I have enjoyed are only possible with the new medium. It has prompted me to develop and be excited by three related techniques. The first was pouring liquid acrylic in all kinds of ways and colors (22 gallons of black and white to make an 8'x18' painting). The second was working on and into the bed of clay. The third was painting and collaging on the poly. I have always been fascinated by the properties and possibilities of paint used to explore creativity and meaning.

Frank Owen

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