An eye rippling of a show by Mary Heilmann at the New Museum blew my mind and exploded my internal lenses. Abstract minimalist paintings gone awry, ditching the staple canon and surfing on the bright hues of ecstatic rainbows, the paintings by this superb artist simultaneously whips you off your seat and sucks you into calm oblivion.
My first Heilmann initiation was a few years back with 303 Gallery and the High Times, Hard Times show at National Academy Museum curated by Katy Siegel. I’ve met her and heard her speak in various different places and will confirm she is the coolest sweetest chick ever. Her prime were in the 60’s and 70′ with the minimalist crowd which she broke away from and created her own ingenious voice with experimental form and high strung colors in sculpture and painting. The paintings in the New Museum show are rebellious, rambunctious, saturated and hyperactive, fluid, angular, jagged and smooth. She works with squares, lines, shaped canvas, squiggles, and swirls, painting with absolute abandonment, layered and messy, reveling in the beauty of imperfection.
The installation of the works are spectacular, with mini plastic weaved chairs strewn across the galleries in similar bright shades and patterns allowing you to spectacle while sitting, viewing on wheels. It coincides with the theatrical aspect of the works as you slide from one lyrical painting to another, the effortless and loose strokes of paint sliding ever so effortlessly.
Neo Noir, 1998
I especially loved the series of paintings involving the blanketing of colors by a thin shade of black or white, as in Neo Noir. This protective layer creates window-like peep holes that illuminate beneath and out of the surface, screaming to get out and be touched. There is stifled movement and this outer single shade sheen is nonchalant in its withholding and containing of the colors that are too vibrant to successfully silence.
Hokusai, 2004, oil on canvas, 75 x 120 in
There are also a few works that bring swaths of rich color together in squiggly chunks, autonomous non-objects, or mere color play interacting , colliding, converging into and against one another. These lyrical movements create a refreshing and joyful vibe that is both relaxing and jarring. The paint and brush is what drives the completion of these paintings with seemingly little direction and manipulation from the artist. It seems the artist merely willed their being born and was granted free reign. The result is a medley of abstract paradise where one can chill, meditate, party and toast to absolute oblivion.