PRINT November 2007


IF MARY HEILMANN is now mostly known as a painter’s painter, her current retrospective, which inaugurated its four-city tour last spring at the Orange County Museum of Art, makes it clear that this ought to change. She is the author of too many smart and gorgeous images to let the artists keep her to themselves. But this isn’t all that needs fixing. As the retrospective emphatically demonstrates, a new chapter urgently needs writing in the still-inconclusive history of postwar abstraction—its highs and its lows.

And I do mean lows: By 1969, when Heilmann, who had arrived in New York after receiving her MFA at the University of California, Berkeley, turned from object making to painting, New York–based abstraction was slowly sinking into a worn-out slump. Clement Greenberg’s hegemony was beginning to unravel, and the artists he patronized would soon feel the pinch. Frank Stella’s salad days

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