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Katy Cowan at Philip Martin Gallery


Katy Cowan’s vibrant sculptures and wall works in her new solo show use rope to unexpected effect. The material, often cast in aluminum, tactically becomes a stand-in for the artist’s own mark-making. The works begin with humble compositions of rope stapled or pinned to a wooden backing. After being cast in aluminum, Cowan then floods her compositions with vibrantly painted oil and graphite, colors and gradients that transform the abstract works into swirling landscapes ripe with movement.

While some works read more like paintings, in others, Cowan frees her rope forms from any bound edges. In Sunbreaks pile, gentle and across (2021), a large cast rope swirls and worms across the gallery wall, a free floating, three-dimensional form on which Cowan paints her sunset hues and applies smaller graphite details. 

The work could be an enlarged version of lines laid down on her more saturated compositions. Via its installation directly to the wall, the artist clues us into her decentralized approach to painting: one in which objects become abstract artist marks, their swirling shapes and frayed edges as expressive as those drawn by Cowan’s own hand.

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Photo: Katy Cowan, as the sun chases the unfurling fray (installation view) (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Philip Martin Gallery.