PRINT April 2016

Mary Heilmann

Ellsworth Kelly, Yellow with Black and White, 2013, oil on canvas, three joined panels, 80 1/2 × 50". © Ellsworth Kelly.

A PRIMARY ASPECT of my experience of art is the piece itself, and then what is going on around it, physically and culturally. And so to walk outside of a gallery and down the street is a powerful part of that looking. While I’m walking, I’m daydreaming about everything: criticism, theory, art history, pretty colors, the art world.

I remember seeing the Ellsworth Kelly show at Matthew Marks Gallery’s four spaces in Chelsea this past May. I walked into the three galleries on Twenty-Second Street—first one, then the next, then the next—and then over to Twenty-Fourth for the last room. Then back to Twenty-Second again.

The content of Kelly’s painting has always been the inside and the outside of the frame. In each gallery, I took in the wall, the space between, turned to look across the room, moved over to see the framing edge. I tried to see what was the white wall and what was the white ground in White Relief over Black, 2013, and whether the yellow in Yellow with Black and White, 2013, was on top of or beneath the black. The whole experience was like a walking meditation: actual physical steps and mind traveling. You could even say—as we used to—“tripping.”

One thing I really like about art is that you can fall in love with the artist without even seeing him. And when I met Ellsworth, I liked him even more.

He will always be here. That’s another thing that’s great about art: The artist is always here.

Mary Heilmann is an artist based in New York.