New York

Bill Owens

American Fine Arts

Though conspicuously absent from public collections, Bill Owens’ photo-chronicles of middle America belong alongside those of the better known “social landscape” photographers of the ’60s and ’70s: Diane Arbus, Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, and Gary Winogrand. Why Owens has slipped through the net is hard to tell. Admittedly Owens’ subject—the quotidian as sanctified in form and ritual—lacks the instantaneous allure or fashion quotient of Davidson’s subcultures or Arbus’ freak shows. Also perhaps the texts that often accompany his images work better in the book form of Suburbia, 1968–72, Working (I do it for the Money), 1974–75, and Our Kind of People, 1969–74 (now out of print) than they do on gallery walls. None of which adequately explains the fact that this was his first solo show after nearly two decades of art-world indifference during which Owens all but stopped taking photographs.

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