"You want beauty? I’ll give you beauty!" —Mary Heilmann
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.