Press release

First U.S. museum survey of painter Charline von Heyl opens this March

at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

(BOSTON – Feb. 6, 2012) This March, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens the first U.S. museum survey of Charline von Heyl, a compelling and important artist whose work offers new ideas and possibilities for painting, and demonstrates the medium’s continued relevance in contemporary art. Von Heyl’s canvases are not abstractions of objects or figures; instead, she is interested in inventing a new image that has not yet been seen and that “stands for itself as a fact.” With their intentional confusion of foreground and background, their dynamic energy, and their contradictions and reversals, these paintings require (and desire) careful looking, but refuse to yield to the impulse to name, identify, or define. Organized by ICA Senior Curator Jenelle Porter, Charline von Heyl includes 12 paintings and two sets of collage-based works on paper tracing the development of von Heyl’s work over the past five years. The exhibition is on view at the ICA from March 21 through July 15, 2012.
“Charline von Heyl’s paintings pull you in at first glance,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA. “Her bold abstractions – ambiguous, powerful and playful – evoke complex sensations and invite multiple viewings. We are delighted to present her first U.S. survey at the ICA and to introduce Boston audiences to her work.”
A wide range of imagery influences von Heyl’s painting. Once the first strokes of paint are applied to canvas, von Heyl lets the work develop according to the process of its making—destroying and creating one gesture after another until something wholly unexpected is forged on the surface. Von Heyl’s collage-based drawings are included alongside her paintings, charting the important visual relationships between the two mediums. Largely black and white, these works on paper combine drawing, painting, woodcut, silkscreen, and lithography, and are defined by a wild overflow of energy. They are sometimes more conventionally legible than the paintings, their source images less transformed.
“Von Heyl typically alternates her time between painting and drawing,” said Porter. “For her, they are two separate modes of making, very much divided into two separate time periods and even two separate studio spaces. Whereas the drawing studio is a free space for experimentation, the painting studio is a place to test the theories.”
Included in the exhibition is Yellow Guitar (2010), a meditation on the still life genre that nods to the work of David Hockney and Juan Gris. In this painting, a still life has been imposed upon the surface of something quite its opposite: a gestural underpainting in charcoal and smudged black spray paint. A grid of thin yellow strokes outlined in black—a device that follows from von Heyl’s drawing experiments—lays itself across another grid, this one painted primarily in solid yellow and white squares, creating an aggressive dissonance. At top, a third grid in black and white unfolds itself. Two recognizable objects surface atop the overlapping grids: a brick red bottle with a yellow label and a wood-handled knife. These items hint that all of the other unidentified shapes might also be objects—just ones we don’t recognize.  
Von Heyl describes the sensation she seeks to create in her work: “It is about the feeling that a painting, or any work of art, can give—when you can’t stop looking because there is something that you want to find out, that you want to understand…. Good paintings have this tantalizing quality. And once you turn around, you absolutely cannot recapture them. They leave a hole in the mind, a longing.” 
Artist bio
Charline von Heyl was born in Germany in 1960 and studied painting with Jörg Immendorff in Hamburg and Fritz Schwegler in Düsseldorf. She has lived in New York since 1994. Von Heyl’s work has been the subject of solo museum exhibitions at Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2009), the Dallas Museum of Art (2009), and the Vienna Secession (2004). Group exhibitions include Oranges and Sardines: Conversations on Abstract Painting at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2008) and Make Your Own Life: Artists In and Out of Cologne (2006) organized by  the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. A mural by the artist is currently on view at the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. Von Heyl’s works are in the collections of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.
Press preview
A press preview for Charline von Heyl will be held on Tuesday, March 20, at 9:30 am. RSVP to Colette Randall at or 617-478-3181.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue designed in collaboration with the artist. It includes an essay by Jenelle Porter and features an interview between von Heyl and Kaja Silverman, Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Chair of Contemporary Art, Department of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania.
Charline von Heyl is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, guest curated by Jenelle Porter, Senior Curator, ICA/Boston.

The ICA Philadelphia acknowledges The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for generous exhibition support. We are also grateful for the support of Hilarie & Mitchell Morgan and Mari & Peter Shaw. ICA acknowledges the generous sponsorship of Barbara B. & Theodore R. Aronson for the exhibition catalogue. We are grateful for support by endowment gifts from ICA board members: the Nancy E. & Leonard M. Amoroso Exhibition Endowment Fund; the Dorothy H. & Martin N. Bandier Endowment Fund; the Reinsberg Exhibition Fund; the Josephine M. & Christopher C. Schlank Fund; the B.Z. & Michael H. Schwartz Fund; and the Bryan & Meredith Verona Fund. Additional funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; The Dietrich Foundation, Inc.; the Overseers Board for the ICA Philadelphia; friends and members of the ICA Philadelphia; and the University of Pennsylvania. General operating support provided, in part, by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. ICA Philadelphia receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. We are grateful to Friedrich Petzel and the Friedrich Petzel Gallery for their in-kind support.

 Sponsored, in part, by Marlene and David Persky.

About the ICA
An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for 75 years. Like its iconic building on Boston's waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA, located at 100 Northern Avenue, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am - 5 pm; Thursday and Friday, 10 am - 9 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 am - 5 pm. Admission is $15 adults, $10 seniors and students, and free for members and children 17 and under. ICA Free Admission for Youth is sponsored by State Street Foundation. Free admission on ICA Free Thursday Nights, 5 - 9 pm. Free admission for families (2 adults + children 12 and under) on last Saturday of the month. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our Web site at



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