Katy Cowan: breath shapes

9 - 23 June 2021

Philip Martin Gallery is proud to present “breath shapes,” an exhibition of new painted cast aluminum sculptures and works-on-paper by Katy Cowan. Cowan's unique cast-aluminum wall works are painted on and drawn on by hand. Like her works-on-paper, Cowan's unique painted cast-aluminum pieces are inspired by studio process, and the coastal landscape of Northern California.


Cowan’s painted sculptures, “show the shifting winds, the force of the Pacific Ocean on Northern California coastlines, the foggy calm of the evening sun burning through the atmosphere.” These works directly reference the active agents of landscape: on the face of the panels, cast aluminum ropes are positioned to replicate the wind and the fog of Northern California; their painted surfaces suggest the sun rising or setting, or moving throughout the day. “Liminal moments that occur outside can be captured in metal through the casting process,” Cowan comments, “and painterly actions replicate the compilation of those moments over time in the studio.”


Cowan operates within three distinct color – or light – fields. In one sculptural work, we see bright yellows, reds and blues, hinting to the color of the sky in the early morning, and the way that the sun reflects off of the ocean as it rises. In another, we see the deep blues, reds and purples of the night. As the graphite shading along the surface recalls the shimmer of moonlight, the ropes shift across the panel as if being pushed by the wind. “It really is about the ability for the wind to shape,” she says, “the wind shapes the ropes, which shapes the composition, which informs my painting.”


Just as her painting is informed by the natural world, Cowan’s works on paper are often created in response to or anticipation of her sculptures. Her transitions between media emphasizes alteration, repetition, and a conceptual emphasis on material choice. Vibrant streaks and blobs of paint, accidental drips, thick gestures, passages of grayscale, and thin lines demarcate the means by which the viewer may visually navigate space and surface. Our eyes regard subtle details within the compositions. We see an array of media, layered imagery, and a deep sense of time. “I love the ways that painting and sculpture can interact,” Cowan writes, “in cooperative ways, confusing ways, quiet ways.”


Katy Cowan (b. 1982, Lake Geneva, WI) received her BFA from University of Puget Sound (Puget Sound, WA) in 2004 and her MFA from Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA) in 2014. Her work was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at Document (Chicago, IL). Recent solo and group shows include “Suns Pass Flat” and “The Day in the Night,” at Philip Martin Gallery (Los Angeles, CA); “Centennial: 100 Years of Otis College Alumni" at Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA); "Left, Right, Left, Left" at The Green Gallery (Milwaukee, WI)’ and "The Blue Sun Moans" at Kate Werble Gallery (New York, NY). Cowan has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at Philip Martin Gallery (Los Angeles, CA); Fourteen30 Contemporary (Portland, OR); University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, WA); Lynden Sculpture Garden (Milwaukee, WI); Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (Madison, WI); Synchrotron Radiation Center: Home of Aladdin (Stoughton, WI); Poor Farm (Manawa, WI); The Green Gallery (Milwaukee, WI); and Kate Werble Gallery (New York, NY). Cowan's work is in public and private collections such as the Minneapolis Museum of Art (Minneapolis, MN); Lynden Sculpture Garden (Milwaukee, WI); Art in Embassies (Maputo, Mozambique); and Northwestern Mutual Insurance (Milwaukee, WI). Her work has been reviewed in Artforum, Los Angeles Times, Architectural Digest, Wallpaper*, Contemporary Art Review LA, Artnet and other publications. Cowan lives and works in Berkeley, CA.


Katy Cowan’s exhibition is on-line through June 23, 2021. Holly Coulis’s exhibition of new oil paintings and sculptures is on view at the gallery May 21 – July 2, 2021.


In accordance with Los Angeles County Covid-19 protocol, Philip Martin Gallery is currently open by appointment only. To make an appointment, or to get additional images, or information please email info@philipmartingallery.com, or call 213-422-9286. Philip Martin Gallery is located at 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034 in the Culver City area of Los Angeles between Venice Blvd. and Washington Blvd., just south of the 10 Freeway.