Mary Heilmann was born in 1940 in San Francisco, California. She earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1962), and an MA from the University of California, Berkeley (1967). For every piece of Heilmann’s work—abstract paintings, ceramics, and furniture—there is a backstory. Imbued with recollections, stories spun from her imagination, and references to music, aesthetic influences, and dreams, her paintings are like meditations or icons. Her expert and sometimes surprising treatment of paint—alternately diaphanous and goopy—complements a keen sense of color that glories in the hues and light that emanate from her laptop and finds inspiration in the saturated hues of popular culture at-large. Her compositions are often hybrid spatial environments that juxtapose two- and three-dimensional renderings in a single frame, join several canvases into new works, or create diptychs of paintings and photographs in the form of prints, slideshows, and videos. Heilmann’s discerning eye for geometry and color extends to her handmade tables and chairs, which she stages in intimate seating arrangements and expansive interventions, as in her site-specific work Sunset, which filled the terrace of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2015.
Mary Heilmann has received the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award (2006) and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She has had major exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2016); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2015); Kunst Museum Bonn, Bonn, Germany (2013); New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2008) and Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California (2007), among others. Her work has appeared in three Whitney Biennial exhibitions (1972, 1989, 2008) and is in many collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Orange County Museum of Art. In June of 2022, Primary Information published a facsimile edition of her highly revered 1999 memoir-monograph, The All Night Movie. In November of 2022, Dia Art Foundation honored Mary Heilmann at their annual fall gala in New York City. Mary Heilmann lives and works in New York and Bridgehampton.
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2018 “Outliers and American Vanguard Art”, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
2017 “Painting Pictures”, Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, NY
"Fast Forward: Painting From the 80s", Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
2016 "Looking at Pictures", Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK
2015 “Sunset”, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
2013 Kunst Museum Bonn, Bonn, Germany
“Good Vibrations", Neues Museum, Nuremberg, Germany
2012 BACA laureate, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The Netherlands
2008 New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York NY (retrospective)
2007 Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston TX (retrospective)
2003 Secession, Vienna, Austria
1996 “nuevas abstracciones”, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain
PUBLIC AND MUSEUM COLLECTIONS
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Secession, Vienna, Austria
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York