Mary Heilmann Visions, Waves and Roads

23 February – 5 April 2012, Hauser & Wirth London

Considered one of the preeminent contemporary Abstract painters, Heilmann’s practice overlays the analytical geometries of Minimalism with the spontaneous ethos of the Beat Generation and the influences of American pop culture. For her exhibition, ‘Visions, Waves and Roads’ in the South Gallery of Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row, Heilmann presents a large group of new paintings as well as ceramic sculpture and her distinctive furniture.

Heilmann’s paintings such as ‘Road Trip’ and ‘Crashing Wave’ are a vibrant retelling of the artist’s ongoing life story. These works recall long cross-country road trips or the wild blue and green tones of waves breaking on the shore. They take their inspiration from scenic highways and ocean vistas of the California West coast, Montauk in New York, the north shore of Hawaii, even Mandaka in Spain. Heilmann also pays tribute to the great Modernist master Kazimir Malevich in several paintings. In ‘Malevich Spin’, she notes his stark Suprematism, quoting his ‘Suprematism, 18th Construction’ from 1915.

Installed alongside Heilmann’s paintings is a group of ceramic tiles dotting the gallery walls. These tiles not only mimic the colour palette of the paintings that they accompany, but also highlight their physical properties – from the drips of paint to the sculptural shapes of her canvasses.

Heilmann once explained, ‘Each time I do a show, or am in a group show, I think of it as one installation piece. I think of the people who come to see the work as part of a picture, part of a story. My paintings and sculptures can be seen as representations of thoughts and ideas. I like to scan my eyes around the room and read the show like a storyboard. And I hope my visitors do that too’ (Artist’s Statement for the Whitechapel Gallery, 2009). To achieve this, she began to include chairs of her own design as part of her installations so that people would stay longer.

For many years, Mary Heilmann has played an influential role for generations of young artists not only through her practice, but also through her teaching and lectures. She was born in San Francisco CA in 1940. Following her studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and Berkeley, Heilmann moved to New York City where she immersed herself in the contemporary art scene. Heilmann lives and works in New York and Bridgehampton, Long Island.