October 24, 2008

Mary Heilmann's Clubchairs, Kid-Size, At The New Museum


I first came to know Mary Heilmann's pop-infused minimalist paintings after collecting the work of Ruth Root, a friend who took inspiration from them for her own colorful abstractions. The retrospective of Heilmann's work which just opened at the New Museum is a long time coming, and not just because she's been overlooked relative to the male painters of her generation; it's also been more than a year since the show first opened in Orange County, and it made stops in Houston and Columbus before arriving in Manhattan.


She's best known for her paintings, but Heilmann also works in other mediums, including the ceramics she was originally trained in, textile, and furniture. The exhibition includes several of Heilmann's Clubchairs, Donald Judd-like, plywood cube chairs set on casters and pimped out with stain and nylon webbing in Heilmann's bold palette.

According to an interview in Houston, the chairs were originally meant to be upholstered in fabric Heilmann created during a residency at the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia. [The Orange County Museum still has limited edition copies for sale of the exhibition catalogue wrapped in Heilmann's fabric.]

Since at least 2003, when they were included in a retrospective in Austria, Heilmann has made the Clubchairs in both adult and children's sizes. Each chair is considered a unique work, not an edition, and they are meant to be used, not just stared at as a sculptural object.

In 2004, an adult-sized Clubchair was selling for $3,500 at 303 Gallery's Armory Show booth. As for kid-sized pricing and availability in 2008, you should multiply the steady rise in Heilmann's art world stock over the last four years by the performance of your stock portfolio over the last four weeks. Depending on the result, you can either call the gallery, or head to Home Depot for some plywood, webbing, and Krylon.

Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone, runs through Jan. 26, 2009 at the New Museum [newmuseum.org, images used with permission]
Review: Unabashedly Joyful Paintings That Look Fun and Easy, but Don't Be Fooled [nyt]
Clubchairs 23 and 24 at Mary Heilmann's 2005 show [303gallery.com]

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