Charline von Heyl at 1301PE
A thought, for those of you who spend time with Notes – do you remember the Joseph Beuys chimney sculpture image in the Florian Morlat post? Check out the yellow shape in the painting from Charline von Heyl’s new show above. To me it speaks of Beuys’ sculpture at the Kunstsammlung NRW in Dusseldorf.
I got an email yesterday announcing the extension through July 1 of Charline von Heyl’s exhibition at 1301PE. Good news. Some of us have been waiting since her Spring, 2007 show Small Paintings at this same space. I recall that in ’07 when the angel and I climbed the stairs at 1301 we hadn’t heard of von Heyl and had no idea what to expect. Oh boy. We saw wonderful abstract paintings, paintings that seemed to be without a burdensome reliance on past abstract practice. I also didn’t get a sense that the artist was using any particular system to create these images; rather, she was responding to movements on the canvas: make a mark, respond, advance that thought, abandon it when it gets too strong, etc. Having seen the new show, I can look back and recognize that among the universe of possible responses in von Heyl’s painting language she includes a willingness to grab imagery from the world around her and uses them almost like another type of brush stroke or color choice.
What does not show in the above images from Small Paintings are the many techniques for laying down oil paint – in places colors were forcibly mixed – to their obvious dismay – and so bubbled and festered, in places they looked as though the surface dried first and the underneath continued its chemical reaction, giving the final surface of the painting a wonderful wrinkly texture. So the colors, shapes, lines and real world references were fun to spend time with and also the surfaces of the paintings held a lot of material.
btw – and this is a good way to transition to the new show – during her recent talk at the Hammer von Heyl mentioned not favoring text in paintings. I cannot quote because my own notes are cryptic at best but paraphrasing von Heyl, “Text stops the looking,” and I take this to mean that when see I words in a painting I turn on the part of my brain that holds language, and this inhibits the part that simply sees without imposing understanding. Painters hate when this happens to a viewer. Take a moment to look above at Untitled (L.S. #5), see those dots? Do you also see how they imply letters and perhaps words? There is a drawing in the current show at 1301 that has a similar effect, although I do think the text is a bit clearer than in the above. The thing is, since the text is so… unclear or even only suggested, my reading of it as such remains tentative and, and… alluring. I don’t find or make a definition that stops me from seeing, rather I look with more intent and this causes me to spend more time with the work.
Immediately after listening to the Hammer talk I visited the gallery again to see the show. I had much of what von Heyl said in my mind, and when I saw the drawing with French-looking text I thought to myself, “Hah! Got you now – you are using text. WTF?” Then I recalled her saying that she likes to mess with her own habits – or perhaps that she likes to mess with our habits of understanding her work. This helped me lose my gotcha feeling; and then last night in the car, telling David about the talk online I pieced together my theory about unclear text. Whatever the case, I have now been thinking about these two works for two weeks. This feels like a successful relationship btwn a work of art and a viewer. Yay.
I’m going to upload some of the images that von Heyl used as references. von Heyl talked a lot about looking, and she is a voracious viewer of images of works of art.
Regarding the above, this link will take you to the Rollins College website with a history of Lubok woodcuts and many images. And this link will take you to the home page of Monster Brains image and info blog where I found the above image. Cool and cooler.
“You discover a painting slowly, in steps. What you see first will never be what you see last and you will not refind your way – the path is already hidden once you follow it.” Charline von Heyl at the UCLA Hammer Talk on May 5, 2011.
When I visited this new exhibition the weekend of the opening I was a little unnerved – I have thought about the 2007 show for four years, only once having an opportunity to see another of her paintings in real life (at Oranges and Sardines at the Hammer) and what I was seeing now was so much not those paintings. Crisis time in looking for me. I did some homework, which I’ll make available to you:
Shirley Kaneda interviews Charline von Heyl in the Fall 2010 Bomb Magazine. I shall steal excellent images from this site as they are quite, quite beautiful. The quote below is making reference to von Heyl’s 2010 exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery:
SK That’s probably why there’s both authority and humor in your paintings, especially in your last show. There’s playfulness and daring, but you seem conscious of not making paintings based on that. They don’t come off jokey. They almost fight each other.
CVH Yes, I know, there is something irritating about the paintings in that way, and it comes directly out of my history. I would call it the cringe factor. And what made you cringe was procedure and material and imagery, not jokes or literal irony. The fact that the paintings made you cringe was their power. I tried to get there with the most awkward materials, goofy tricks and techniques, and with the dumbest messages. Always forcing things together that could not possibly work. It felt like bending bones. And I think that’s still in there even though my work has changed. But it wasn’t about being painterly or unpainterly, or abstract or representational; those questions just didn’t exist.
I listened to the Hammer / UCLA Dep’t of Art Lecture with Charline von Heyl, link here.
I recommend each of these resources to you, urgently. Kaneda’s interview is revealing of both parties’ thoughts and feelings on painting and von Heyl’s Hammer talk – being a lecture to art students – is chock full of tricks of the trade.
There is a fascinating extended conversation btwn von Heyl and a woman in the audience questioning von Heyl’s painting practice in terms of time and image gathering. To close her comments the unnamed woman noted that von Heyl’s paintings have an immediacy, a sense of urgency, as though they come together all at once. This is a spot-on observation and one that Charline von Heyl greatly appreciated. (Italicized portion above was added on Friday, June 17. My June 15 use of the word “urgently” nagged at me until I could re-locate my reason for using it. Credit to unnamed woman in the audience, whose thoughtful commentary inspired me and made me think.)
For me, information helps me in looking. Visual information as well as talking and reading. I’m glad I have initial reactions to work – good or bad – and I’m just as happy to be able to let them go and look again. Have a nice time when you visit (or revisit – as you should) von Heyl’s show at 1301.
Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony link to interesting blog, text available from Amazon et al.
Aby Warburg – anything you can find. Link to Warburg Institute in London.
Ooh, another irresistible von Heyl quote, or paraphrase, “Color is always a whore. You never get through to anything else.”
Charline von Heyl at 1301PE, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., through July 1