Second-floor installation view of Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone at the New Museum. This and all installation shots courtesy of the museum
Mary Heilmann turns the idea of the “tortured artist” inside out. Her joyful paintings seem effortless and spontaneous. Her grids and stripes are unmeasured. She makes big, blowsy shapes with thinned paint and loose brushwork, with seemingly no attempt to do anything about the resulting drips except to let them have a life of their own. Sometimes she paints over vast tracts of the canvas; other times there’s a pentimento or perhaps an image intended to be visible beneath the surface. Lines meander geometrically over the surface, occasionally from canvas to canvas, as many works are composed of multiple units.
Above: Hokusai, 2004, oil on canvas, 75 x 120 inches
Above: Surfing on Acid, 2005, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches
Below: Lovejoy Jr., 2004, oil on canvas, 40 x 32 inches
A second-floor installation view: These Heilmann-designed chairs are coordinated with the paintings in this and the other galleries. The grid of the webbing echoes the exhibition's predominant motif. You can sit in them as you take in the work
Second-floor installation views, above and below
Heilmann’s work is geometric abstraction with its feet up. The formal elements are in place, but there is gestural movement in some paintings, organic forms in others. She has been painting and showing for 40 years, and during that time she has also made ceramics and furniture. The installation at The New Museum makes sense of it all.
Lobby Gallery: a wall of paintings including Lupe, 1987, oil on canvas, 54 x 54 inches; and Sea Wall, 1986, oil on canvas, 60 x 42 inches
Below: Chartreuse Table, 2008, with what I would assume is a collecion of the artist's ceramic work
This has been a fabulous and well-earned decade for Heilmann: solo shows in New York, Antwerp, London, Zurich and elsewhere; featured-artist status at Basel Miami via Hauser and Wirth; simultaneous covers on Art in America and Art Forum last year; this beautifully installed solo at the New Museum, which originated at the Orange Country Museum of Art, and a gorgeous accompanying catalog; a juicy feature in the New York Times. Could a MacArthur grant be next?
Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone is at the New Museum through January 26.