Lost and Found in Space: Part 2
Despite the subdued, black/white/gray palette of works like Lights and Cape, such pictures testify to the artist’s mastery of fundamental painterly devices: washes underlying body color, warm and cool tonalities, scampering and slithering mark making, shadow versus sheen. Then there is the crepuscular, mysterious Mead, the most object-like of the major recent canvases. In its shallow, tactile space, we might be inspecting the streaming wall of a cave. Here the artist’s taste for the square format makes inarguable visual sense. There is no suggestion of lateral movement, only the stasis of entrapment and pressure.
Raceway does this too, complicating the familiar sensation of a receding, distinctly watery plane, approximated by lazily horizontal strokes, with a hail of manganese blue. Frank Stella once remarked that the Abstract Expressionists “got into trouble at the corners,” by which he meant to indicate the faultless logic of his own designs. But the corners of Raceway define its program: earth, ocean, vapor, shell. Within them is glorious confusion.
This exhibition heralds an unexpectedly new beginning for the artist, as here we have before us a radiant new triptych called Lucky Stripes. Nothing heretofore has prepared us for its finesse, its jittery shimmer, its distinctly aquatic matrix of calligraphic marks, its rainbow-hued smoke on the water. A strong, hot orange and a high, clear blue mark its chromatic extremes, with dry-brush red and staining white lightly strewn about in a manner that yields an atmospheric haze that the artist half-jokingly refers to as “fast space.” As does Heidenheimer’s earlier work, Lucky Stripes willfully conflates the veiling and the veiled. But here the veil of the stretched canvas itself is brought into the conversation by means of canvas-colored paint that fuses figure and ground, skin and support.
For most of the twenty-five years she has painted in New York, Heidenheimer has worked a vein that has been in art-world fashion’s dustbin. Gestural abstraction was spurned by received wisdom, which let only a few feisty talents through its filter of taste: Joan Snyder, Louise Fishman, Pat Steir, Pat Passlof. The recent, overdue mainstream recognition of the achievement of Joan Mitchell has helped to prompt a greater receptiveness to this venerable, irony-free idiom. Intuition was a dirty word until a few years ago. Kylie Heidenheimer’s painting belongs to a lineage of open-ended, utopian abstraction guided by faith in the integrityof intuition. Pictorial fact is implied rather than stated, tapping into the part of the viewer’s brain engaged with becoming rather than being. The opposite of illustration, her work pursues the phantom image.
© 2008 Permission of the Artist
image: Raceway, acrylic on wood panel., 46" x 46", 2008