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 Mary Heilmann  (1940 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: abstract geometric painting-often shaped canvas

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Ad Code: 3
Mary Heilmann
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A painter of brightly colored canvases with diverse styles from non-objective to pop art to geometric abstraction, Mary Heilmann does work that often reflects commonplace things she observes in her surroundings such as patterns on air vents and window-blinds.  Her paintings often have lattice and grid designs.  Frequently she paints over her canvases, which builds up both the thickness of the paint and often the intensity of the color.  Also she is much influenced by certain movies, literature and music.  Her early paintings are acrylic on canvas, and more recently she has favored oil painting. 

According to critics, the artist gives the appearance of having fun with her mediums and of not taking herself too seriously.  One of her departures from tradition is applying her paint around the sides of her canvases and also painting on shaped canvases that then become three dimensional.

Heilmann is a native of California and took up painting after studying at the University of California at Santa Barbara, majoring in literature and pottery.  Although her major focus has become painting, she retains her pottery-making focus as well.  In 1968, she moved to New York City at a time when minimalism was becoming the dominant style.  However, she bucked this trend, staying with in-your-face abstraction.  An ongoing influence for Heilmann is her favorite author Alain Robbe-Grillet, whose prose moves gyroscopically, shifting fields of focus and often returning to the subject at a later time.  Also being in California in the early 1960s she was influenced by artists Bruce Naumann, Gordon Matta-Clark and Keith Sonnier.

In her autobiography, The All Night Movie, completed in 1999, Heilmann tells the story of her life and the inspirations for her paintings.  A 2007 solo exhibition of Heilmann's paintings, 75 works, is sponsored by the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, and will travel to the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City in 2008.  In the promotional material, she is described as: "A pioneer of infusing abstract painting with influences from popular culture and craft traditions" and as "One of the very few female abstract artists of her generation".

Sources include:
Stephen Westfall, Art in America, November 1993


Orange County Museum:

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