"You want beauty? I’ll give you beauty!"
Mary Heilmann is one of the most important abstract painters of her generation. Her distinctively fluid, humorous, and bright canvases combine the modes of Abstract Expressionism with a vibrant Pop sensibility. Heilmannn's 1979 painting in hot pink and black, evocatively titled Save the Last Dance for Me, marked a shift in the artist's perspective. Heilmann describes it: "Now the work came from a different place. Instead of working out of modernist non-image formalism, I began to see that the choices in the work depended more on content for their meaning." This beautifully illustrated study of Save the Last Dance for Me explores the development of Heilmann's work, and the way it continues to engage us—psychologically, sensually, and socially.
The three bright pink rectangles in Heilmann's painting seem to dance off the edge of the canvas, through a black field that seems dark as a nightclub after midnight—or perhaps the three are actually one pink rectangle, seen in a blissfully formal time lapse, moving across the dance floor/canvas. These definitively modernist geometric forms coexist with a sense of movement in real time. For many, abstraction may have been dancing its last dance in 1979, but Heilmann's bright pink rectangles boogie on.
Mary Heilmann was born in San Francisco and has lived and worked in New York since 1968.
The "death of painting" and its subsequent resurrection in transformed conditions is a leitmotif of the modern era. Painting’s postconceptual resurgence at the start of the 1980s began a dramatic expansion of its field. If painting remains important today, it is because its contradictions have been acknowledged as artists have radically diversified the components of its production and presentation.
This first anthology to focus on painting's multiple discourses over the last three decades brings together key statements, dialogues, and debates that have moved the conversation beyond the modern/postmodern dialectic while redefining the conditions necessary for an artwork to be described as "painting." The diversity of contemporary painting’s meanings and practices encompasses the randomness and eclecticism associated with Web-based creation. Although for many the presence of paint endures, others have argued for painting to be classed not as a material but as a philosophical category.
Compiled by a leading critic of painting who actively participated in these conversations while also teaching young artists in the studio classroom, this collection ranges widely, to reflect the diversity of ways in which painting continues to be investigated and evaluated in studios, exhibition spaces, and the marketplace of ideas. These writings, statements, and interviews reflect ongoing debates and reignite questions for an as yet unimagined future of painting.