Mary Heilmann (born 1940) is an American artist known for her abstract painting, ceramics, and furniture. Influenced by 1960s counterculture, the free speech movement, and the surf culture of her native California, Mary Heilmann is one of the most influential abstract painters of her generation. The imaginative color relationships of her work all have backstories, imbued with vivid memories and references to music, aesthetic influences, and dreams. Hielmann finds inspiration in pop songs, the light that emanates from her laptop, and the yellow-centric palette of The Simpsons. Heilmann’s practice overlays the analytical geometries of Minimalism with the spontaneity of her Californian ethos. Her works are always distinguishable by their often unorthodox—and ever joyful—approach to color and form.
Raised in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Heilmann completed a degree in literature, before she studied ceramics at Berkeley. Only after moving to New York in 1968 did she begin to paint. While many artists at that time demanded that painting should avoid any references to experience outside the material presence of the work itself, Heilmann rebelled against this rigid dogma and solidified herself as a true visionary. Her work has appeared in three Whitney Biennial exhibitions (1972, 1989, 2008) and is in many collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C, among many others.
Fellow abstract expressionist Sam Gilliam also explores vibrant and kinetic color relationships, drawing inspiration from the improvisatory nature of jazz. View his work.