New York, NY, September 27, 2023 – Opening on September 30, 2023, Mary Heilmann: Starry Night is the first dedicated presentation of the artist’s Starry Night series (1967–1971) since its debut at Paley and Lowe Gallery in New York in 1971.
“Dia’s engagement with Mary Heilmann began in 2017 with an exhibition of new work at Dia Bridgehampton. I am delighted that we are now displaying this important early work, which highlights the breadth of her artistic production,” said Jessica Morgan, Dia’s Nathalie de Gunzburg Director.
Over a more than 50-year career, Heilmann has primarily explored color and form in a signature abstract painting style, taking an inventive, spontaneous approach to the analytical geometries of Minimalism. Though best known for her vibrant paintings, Heilmann’s formative years as an artist were anchored in process-oriented sculptural work. The monochromatic paintings and objects that comprise the series of celestial works are among the first Heilmann made after moving to New York and declaring painting as her primary medium, marking a transitional yet pivotal moment in her artistic career.
The full breadth of the series is represented in this exhibition, which includes black-stained stretched and unstretched canvases referencing astronomical constellations. Her decision to leave several works unstretched and “tacked to the wall, kind of like anti-form objects” speaks to her interest in responding to her contemporaries—Postminimal and Conceptual artists of the late 1960s—and straddling the line between painting and sculpture. A group of these canvases was bound into a large, children’s book–like work known as The Book of Night (1970), also on view. The Book of Night transforms these paintings into a three-dimensional object, blurring the boundaries between media and providing a tactile interaction with the cosmos. Objects made of clay or bamboo coated in flock (a type of textured fiber) lean, protrude, and hang high from the wall, complementing these canvases and bringing the artist’s constructed galaxy into the space of the viewer. Through these works, Heilmann engages with formal, conceptual, and cosmological notions of light and dark, evoking constellations using cut-outs, glitter, lead foil, and other ad hoc material strategies.
“This exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse into Heilmann’s early practice, which rebuffs the sensibilities of peers such as Donald Judd and Robert Morris, while at the same time drawing from common areas of interest: the grid, the monochrome, and anti-form. The Starry Night series hasn’t been seen by the public in such depth in over 50 years, making this a remarkable opportunity to expand our understanding of Heilmann’s extraordinary career,” said Jordan Carter, curator and co–department head.
Mary Heilmann: Starry Night is curated by Jordan Carter, curator and co–department head, with Emily Markert, curatorial assistant.
All exhibitions at Dia are made possible by the Economou Exhibition Fund.
Mary Heilmann: Starry Night is made possible by support from Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip Aarons and the Rennie Collection, Vancouver.
About Mary Heilmann
Mary Heilmann was born in San Francisco in 1940. She received a BA in literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1962, and an MA in ceramics and sculpture from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. Following graduate school, Heilmann moved to New York where the work and writing of artists such as Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Robert Smithson encouraged her transition from sculpture to painting. Since then, Heilmann’s approach to painting has developed from geometric shapes to abstract forms referring to personal memory and elements derived from popular culture. Her work has been shown throughout the United States and Europe, including exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Bonn (2013), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015), and Whitechapel Gallery, London (2016). From 2007 to 2009, the retrospective Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone traveled from the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California, to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; and New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Heilmann lives in Bridgehampton, New York, and New York City.
About Dia Art Foundation
Taking its name from the Greek word meaning “through,” Dia was established in 1974 with the mission to serve as a conduit for artists to realize ambitious new projects, unmediated by overt interpretation and uncurbed by the limitations of more traditional museums and galleries. Dia’s programming fosters contemplative and sustained consideration of a single artist’s body of work and its collection is distinguished by the deep and longstanding relationships that the nonprofit has cultivated with artists whose work came to prominence particularly in the 1960s and ’70s.
In addition to Dia Beacon, Dia Bridgehampton, and Dia Chelsea, Dia maintains and operates a constellation of commissions, long-term installations, and site-specific projects, notably focused on Land art, nationally and internationally. These include:
- Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), and Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks, inaugurated in 1982 and ongoing), all located in New York
- De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977), in western New Mexico
- Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), in the Great Salt Lake, Utah
- Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973–76), in the Great Basin Desert, Utah
- De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), in Kassel, Germany
- Cameron Rowland’s Depreciation (2018)
For additional information or materials, contact:
(International press inquiries)
Sam Talbot, email@example.com, +44 (0) 772 5184 630