IN THE RIGHT LIGHT
ARTIST MARY HEILMANN SHINES IN A NEW SHOW AT THE FLAVIN INSTITUTE THIS SUMMER.
Artist Mary Heilmann shines in a new show at the Flavin Institute this summer.
“With or without color, I never neglect the design,” Dan Flavin once said of the electric-light pieces he constructed from fluorescent tubes and fixtures. The sentiment could just as easily have come from Mary Heilmann, another artist beloved for her dazzling palette. Further connections— and distinctions—between the two are illuminated in a new exhibition of paintings and ceramics, “Mary Heilmann: Painting Pictures,” opening June 29 at the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton.
“I wanted to bring Mary into the Dia fold,” says Jessica Morgan, director of the Dia Art Foundation, which maintains the Flavin Institute. “The pioneering minimalist artists associated with Dia, including Flavin and Donald Judd, were foundational for her.”
A California native who studied ceramics and sculpture at Berkeley, Heilmann moved to New York in 1968 and began visiting the East End in the late 1980s, eventually settling in Bridgehampton and setting up a cozy red-barn studio beside her “hippie house” (what she calls her 1920s Sears & Roebuck special). Heilmann’s approach to geometric abstraction has always been personal, using titles that namecheck popular culture and juicy hues more likely to be inspired by The Simpsons than
the Sistine Chapel. “Every piece of abstract art that I make has a backstory,” she has said.
Featured in the show are two recently completed paintings inspired by time Heilmann spent with Flavin’s “Icons” series from the early 1960s, when he was beginning to incorporate lights into his work. “Often we associate minimalism with a coldness, a harshness, and industrial production, but there’s also a warmth to the works,” says Morgan. “With Mary’s handmade paintings and ceramics, we’re more aware of the emotional quality, and bringing her work into this new context shows that there are so many qualities they share.” “Mary Heilmann: Painting Pictures” is on view through May 27, 2018, at the Dan Flavin Art Institute, 23 Corwith Ave., Bridgehampton, 631-537-1476; diaart.org
“EVERY PIECE OF ABSTRACT ART THAT I MAKE HAS A BACKSTORY.”
— MARY HEILMANN
Shine on: Mary Heilmann’s Ray, 2017, part of the “Painting Pictures” exhibition, reflects the artist’s more personal approach to geometric abstraction.