Katy Cowan: Suns Pass Flat

5 - 18 August 2020

Philip Martin Gallery is proud to present an exhibition of new works on paper by Katy Cowan. The show is conceived in two parts. The first group of works, completed in oil paint, graphite, enamel, watercolor and colored pencil, are in part a response to SJ Cowan's forthcoming book of poems, "The Blue Sun Moans." The second group of works are a series of pieces created in response to or anticipation of sculptures.

Katy Cowan comments that poetry offers the reader a chance to look at and respond to the world from a different vantage point. In short, one takes on the eyes of the poet. As visual artist, working in response to poetry Katy Cowan writes, “it takes time - you have to step back, see your world in a new way, and let that change affect you.” The forms and colors of a given work change with one's thinking. At the same time, so, too, does the layering of information in a given work. 

Katy Cowan's works on paper created in partial response to SJ Cowan's poems echo their language and push the visual vocabulary for which Cowan herself has become known. We see, for example, the contrast between color as perceived outdoors and that applied in the studio. 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. Or, as Cowan writes, "suns and moons pass, light changes over the hill-scapes, the observations of the poet slowly take in and document their world.”

Read a new poem by SJ Cowan below.



Katy Cowan's works on paper created in response to or anticipation of sculptures follow a different approach. In these works, Cowan aims for representations that move through a series of different reference points. Several of Cowan's works, for example, take on the idea of a river, but in an oblique way. Cowan arranges a series of ropes visually in her studio, and approaches the topic metaphorically. She writes, "My hope is that the viewer cannot exactly fix on a reference to landscape, or a dream, or the interiority of a body, or the actual rope, but rather drifts in and out of these categories. In the same way that landscapes fluctuate and move; in the same way that dream-states have no fixed beginning or end; in the same way that the body’s interior feels both so foreign yet of our own; and in the same way a rope seems so fixed as a tool (yet reveals a plethora of associations when reconfigured and disentangled)." 


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 included in "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). She 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. 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.