Critics’ Picks

Unititled, from “Suburbia,” ca. 1972–73.

Unititled, from “Suburbia,” ca. 1972–73.

New York

Bill Owens

James Cohan | 48 Walker St
48 Walker Street
July 5–September 24, 2005

Occupying the territory between Lee Friedlander’s formal elegance and Gregory Crewdson’s over-the-top American Gothic, Bill Owens has been using photography to pry into the American psyche for almost four decades. This show includes work from his best known series—“Suburbia,” 1972, “Our Kind of People,” 1976, “Working, I do it for the money,” 1978, and “Leisure,” 2004—as well as unpublished photographs from the late ‘60s that point toward Larry Clark’s vision of debauched American youth. An untitled work from “Suburbia” that looks down on a cul-de-sac block party conjures Crewdson’s later photographs taken from a cherry picker. The most famous photo from “Suburbia,” of a young boy in cowboy boots patrolling his neighborhood on a Big Wheel, toy rifle in hand, is near the beginning of the show. Demonstrating the way in which certain things, like guns, are indubitably ingrained in the culture, the photo implies that, in America, power often winds up in the hands of juvenile cowboys—an uncannily prescient observation.