Mary Heilmann, Tea Garden, 1984 / Photo: Thomas Müller © Mary Heilmann Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and 303 Gallery, New York
Mary Heilmann / Daydream Nation
May 2 – Jul 26, 2024
Hauser & Wirth
New York, USA

“A body of work starts by daydreaming…” –Mary Heilmann

On May 2nd, we will open ‘Daydream Nation’ at its 22nd Street gallery, exploring Mary Heilmann’s ongoing interest in drawing as a form of transcribing memory. Curated by artist Gary Simmons, Heilmann’s friend and former student and colleague at New York’s School of Visual Arts, the exhibition celebrates her talent for distilling complex images and ideas into deceptively simple geometric forms and abstract gestural marks. Through rarely and never-before-seen works on paper from the 1970s to early 2000s, this presentation reveals how drawing functions as a form of daydreaming – of conjuring the sights, sounds and events of her past travels or her imagined future – in Heilmann’s creative process.

Heilmann is known for working across mediums and for installations which playfully combine disparate works. Reflecting on the artist’s approach to exhibition-making, ‘Daydream Nation’ brings together works on paper, ranging from watercolor studies for larger paintings to works that function as paintings on paper in their own right, alongside a selection of her ceramic sculptures and sculptural chairs to create an ambiently whimsical yet conceptually rigorous environment. Heilmann often works in series, revisiting and reimagining certain arrangements of form and color over time, as evidenced here in such recurring motifs as the chair, rosebud, spiral, wave and web. But in Heilmann’s oeuvre, repetition begets difference and from this multiplicity emerges important truths about the functions of memory and our process of translating it.

Drawing has always factored significantly into Heilmann’s practice, manifesting in a variety of forms in ‘Daydream Nation.’ The exhibition features a new mural-like installation that reimagines and expands an existing work into a new form of expression. Heilmann’s seventh wall drawing to date, this installation was developed in conversation with Simmons, who frequently explores the monumental scale of this medium in his own work.

The title of this exhibition is taken from Sonic Youth’s groundbreaking album ‘Daydream Nation’ (1988), beloved by both Heilmann and Simmons. Evoking Heilmann’s longstanding interest in daydreaming as a creative exercise and the importance of travel for her in this process, it also situates her oeuvre within the culture of youthful rebellion in New York City, the California-born artist’s adopted home since 1968 and a constant source of energy and inspiration for her both personally and professionally.

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