Charline von Heyl is a German-born artist, New York-based for many years, who makes paintings and works on paper which are wildly different each from the next. Uninterested in developing a consistent “style,” she’s instead made a kind of syncretism or polymorphousness her modus operandi. In a von Heyl painting, the “looks” of different styles and eras of art blend and bounce off one another. Cohesion is there—the paintings assert themselves immediately as presences, as verifiable things-in-the-world. But there’s an uneasiness or unruliness built into the cohesion. Things don’t add up—or rather they do, but they shouldn’t. Wrong moves count for as much as the right ones. The paintings exist in the world as palimpsests, containing and subsisting on other incarnations and previous selves.
At the Ice Plant, von Heyl showed a group of nine paintings made over the course of her residency. The paintings were mostly large, 7 by 7 feet or so, with two smaller works intermingled. The paintings were propped on blocks and leaned against girders or the wall, giving the exhibit an improvisational feel. A quick scan of the room suggested a bunch of different painters squaring off and wrestling for space, often within the confines of a single painting. In one painting, for example, a nebulous grey vacuum or void—roughly triangular in shape, face-like in a vague sort of way—was set against a blank white background. Jutting off the perimeter of the “void” were black triangles edged in brilliant red. The triangles were like pennants, or cartoony emanations of energy. They made the void a presence-gave it glamour, made it a star. Wreathed in pointers, absence asserted itself, took a turn in the limelight. Von Heyl’s paintings thrive on this kind of paradox. They tell complicates stories, rife with contradictions and reversals. They aim to be themselves, not the image of themselves—not the cover of the novel but the novel itself.
Charline von Heyl was born in Mainz, Germany in 1960. She studied painting with Jörg Immendorff in Hamburg and Fritz Schwegler in Düsseldorf. She has had many solo exhibitions at Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York, Galerie Gisela Capitain in Cologne, and Galerie Baerbel Graesslin in Frankfurt, as well as other venues, including the Dallas Museum of Art in 2005 and the Vienna Secession in 2004. She has participated in numerous group shows, including the traveling exhibition Make Your Own Life: Artists In and Out of Cologne. In fall 2008 her artist’s book Sabotage was published by Xn Editions and Christophe Daviet-Thery in Paris. The book was previewed, with an introductory note by the artist, in the October 2008 Artforum.
The Chinati Foundation's Artist in Residence program is generously supported by the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation and the Chinati Contemporary Council.