Craig Owens was a senior editor of Art in America, a contributor to such scholarly journals as Skyline and October, a graduate of Haverford College, and a professor of art history at Yale University and Barnard College. He wrote many essays on such diverse topics as photography, feminism, gay politics, art in the marketplace, serial art, and psychoanalysis, as well as a number of seminal essays on individual contemporary individual artists, including Allan McCollum, William Wegman, and Barbara Kruger.
One of Owens's most influential essays was The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism, an article in two parts in which he explores the allegorical aspects of contemporary art. The two parts were published in the journal October in Spring 1980 and Summer 1980. In the first part Owen says that, "Allegorical imagery is appropriated imagery" (Owens, p54) and discerns an allegorical impulse at work in the appropriation art of artists such as Sherrie Levine. With reference to Walter Benjamin in The Origin of German Tragic Drama, he also links allegory with impermanence, the piling up of fragments and obsessional accumulation. These impulses can be seen, respectively, in site-specific art, photomontage and art that follows a mathematical progression (for instance Sol LeWitt). (Owens, p55-57). In the second part he considers the work of Laurie Anderson, Robert Rauschenberg and Cindy Sherman.