Mary Heilmann, The Thief of Baghdad, 1983, oil on canvas, 60" x 42"
9 MARY HEILMANN (WHITECHAPEL GALLERY, LONDON; CURATED BY LYDIA YEE WITH HABDA RASHID) This dense, exhilarating retrospective made clear just how original Heilmann’s painterly imagination has been over the past five decades. Informed and shaped as much by the subcultures of surfing and punk as by the legacies of late modernist abstraction, Heilmann’s deceptively casual, essentially nonrepresentational art has always been rooted in personal experience; an autobiographical narrative fully fleshed out by Heilmann’s anecdotal commentaries in the exhibition’s revelatory catalogue.
Matthew Higgs is the director of White Columns, New York, and a regular contributor to Artforum. With artist Peter Doig, he recently curated two exhibitions of Denzil Forrester’s work from the 1980s at Tramps, London, and White Columns (on view until December 3 and December 17, respectively).