In Brief

Whitney Museum Launches Emoji Designed by Laura Owens

The new pack of 50 stickers is based on a series of ceramic sculptures Owens made based on the beloved facial icons.

Emojis designed by Laura Owens (image by the author for Hyperallergic via Apple Store)

Laura Owens is known primarily for her paintings, but her sculptural work will likely soon be shared and seen by countless people with the launch of a new emoji pack. Released earlier this week by the Whitney Museum, where Owens’s mid-career retrospective is ongoing, the pack features 50 stickers the artist designed for iMessage. Each is a digital version of a porcelain sculpture that Owens made, IRL replicas of the classic facial icons — presenting a very fitting way to interact with Owens’s work, which often mixes traditional painting conventions with digital techniques.

Owens made this little-known series of sculptures in 2015, and they were included in her solo exhibition at Sadie Coles the following year. You can’t really tell from the emoji set, but each real-world piece is about the size of a ping pong ball. In digital form, they still cast shadows and retain the reflective gleams from the real world, making for some really unique emoji — ones that revel in objecthood and materiality. I like that they convey a sense of weight; using one seems to send a much more emphatic message than what gets across by deploying a smaller, flat emoji.

Available for free download in the Apple App Store, the pack makes a great addition to other art-related emoji sets, such as Hyo Hong’s Cindy Sherman icons and Molly Young and Teddy Blanks’s emoji of Old Master paintings.

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