I went to the New Museum on Saturday to see the Mary Heilmann, To be Someone and Elizabeth Peyton, Live Forever shows, which I hadn’t had a chance to get to before. I started up on the 4th floor in the Peyton exhibit and walked my way down. I’ve always been attracted to the colours and sensitivity of Elizabeth Peyton’s work, especially the drawings. However, probably because I don’t really care about Kurt Cobain or Jarvis, I found myself on Saturday really looking at the grounds of her paintings and how she prepares the surface. In fact, I found the thick, sometimes smooth sometimes uneven white grounds with rough edges to be the most interesting aspect of the paintings. They provided both an interesting textural contrast to the really loose and thin paint that she uses and added a brightness/luminosity to her colours. My wife, Sauman, who’s not a huge fan or Peyton’s work, pointed out to me that none of her subjects smile, ever, which gave a strong sense of sadness or loneliness or isolation, despite the seeming intimacy of the people and everyday scenes depicted in her work.
It was such a contrast then to walk into the galleries of the Mary Heilmann exhibition which struck me as fun, playful, light and airy. I had never heard of Mary Heilmann before this exhibition and I am not familiar at all with her work beyond the little bit that I read, but it really struck me as lacking any of the pretension of a lot of contemporary abstraction of the last 30 years. The zen phrase “nothing special,” that is used to refer to the ordinariness or everyday mind, kept popping into my head as I walked through the exhibition. I don’t know why that kept coming up, maybe because I could just relax and really enjoy the paintings visually rather than having to think about them too hard, or that they had a playful everday presence about them. Sauman, on the other hand, wanted to know what was special about her paintings because it reminded her a lot of the work of some of our peers at the ASL or other work she has seen in Chelsea, whereas the ceramic work she found exciting.
There is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Richard Flood on the New Museum website that I found intersting:
RF: I’m sitting here looking at these amazing glazes on your ceramics. Do they have great importance to your use of paint?
MH: Right. In fact, when I went into painting, I really came in with a sculptor’s attitude and used the paint in a way that you use the clay. I thought of it as a physical thing. And so I really didn’t think of doing painting the way you think of drawing and painting, but more like the way you do sculpture. Pouring, casting, pressing, moulding. And then a color, red or orange or black, would be a physical material rather than a color you paint on. It’s a different way of configuring it.
The Elizabeth Peyton show closed yesterday, but the Mary Heilmann is up of another couple of weeks and is a fun treat.
Mary Heilmann, To Be Someone @ New Museum, 235 Bowery, thru 1/28Tags: luminosity, new museum of contemporary art, abstract, Mary Heilmann, colour, new museum
January 12, 2009 No Comments
Mary Heilmann / Weave / 1992 / Oil on canvas / 40 1/8 x 30 inches / Spanierman Modern
Don Christensen / Eastbound / 2008 / Oil-based enamel on wood / 31 x 22 inches / Spanierman Modern
Chris Martin / Crystal / 2007 / Oil and spray paint on canvas / 31 x 26 inches / Spanierman Modern
Present Tense: A group exhibition curated by Don Christensen with Mary Heilmann
June 12 – August 2, 2008
The works were selected on the basis of their ability to produce instant and visceral responses in the viewer, without the necessity of contextualization. The artists included share a preoccupation with eccentric structures and tend toward the use of unexpected materials and techniques. Working in the abstract formalist tradition, they seek new vocabulary and materials, redefining their boundaries, even to the degree of leaving the confines of the canvas altogether. Diverse in the methods by which they were created, the works in Present Tense reveal the boundless potential now associated with abstraction and demand our immediate engagement with the objects before us.Tags: latin american paintings, new york art galleries, abstract painting, art gallery, exhibit, paintings gallery
June 17, 2008 No Comments