Opening This Thursday (05/07): Julie Heffernan & “In Bloom”

Mark Moore Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Julie Heffernan, the artist’s third solo show at the gallery. Continuing what has become a hallmark series of self-portraits, Heffernan has developed a unique and fertile visual lexicon, which deftly combines themes of the personal with the political, the universal with the individual, and the familiar with the fantastical.

At the heart of the work is a palpable, grave concern for the environment. Issues of climate change, overpopulation and ecological imbalance are presented in highly ornate, dreamlike tableaux, rife with symbolism and allegorical implication. Although Heffernan’s compositions carry a clear reverence for the style and tradition of historical narrative painting, her imagery is not tethered to a specific genre, period or ideology, but rather blossoms directly from the imagination, expounding on Surrealism’s notion of the subconscious as the architect of reality.

Despite their sobering subject matter, Heffernan’s works are empowered by a sense of cautious optimism, wherein social critique is not the endgame. Rather than focusing solely on the causes and symptoms of our global maladies, Heffernan’s canvases are alive with possibility, imagining creative ways in which we might prevail over our own undoing. The artist states: “The work is a continuation of my interest in climate change and the kinds of changes we are going to have to consider in order to deal with some of its eventualities – perhaps an opportunity for some creativity in how we approach habitats and lifestyles. No more room for wastefulness, but what do we decide to keep and what to get rid of? The figures are now engaged in work of some sort: pulling, dragging, wrestling with materials in order to start the work of change.”

Heffernan (b. 1956, Illinois) received her MFA from Yale School of Art (CT), and has been exhibiting widely for the past two decades. She is currently Professor of Fine Arts at Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ. Selected exhibitions include: The Kwangju Biennial (Korea), Weatherspoon Art Gallery (NC), The Me Museum (Berlin), Knoxville Museum Of Art (TN), Columbia Museum Of Art (SC), Milwaukee Art Museum (WI), The New Museum (NY), The Norton Museum (FL), The American Academy Of Arts And Letters (NY), Kohler Arts Center (WI), The Palmer Museum Of Art (PA), National Academy Of Art (NY), McNay Art Museum (TX), Herter Art Gallery (MA), Mint Museum (NC), Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VA), and Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OK) among numerous others. Her work has also been acquired by many of the institutions listed above.

Concurrently in Gallery Two, MMG presents In Bloom, a group show featuring new work by ten gallery artists in addition to the exhibition’s keystone: Andy Warhol.

The exhibition was developed as a “call and response” to Andy Warhol’s iconic flower images from the early 1960s. The gallery requested that each invited artist create a new piece similar in scale to Warhol’s original 14 x 14″ canvases, that also addressed concepts inherent to Warhol’s work: derivations on the art historical still life, mechanization of art-making, and the convergence of fine art and pop culture. As the current nature of art and commerce has facilitated industry-wide conversations about the evolving role of artists, galleries, museums, art fairs, and the Internet, Warhol’s philosophies appear more topical and relevant than ever before.

Considering this simple framework, incredibly diverse approaches and techniques were employed, given the practices of each artist. Certain individuals approached the theme from an art historical perspective, focusing on the perception and tradition of still life, landscape, and pastoral imagery, as can be seen in the works of David Klamen and Allison Schulnik. Gallery newcomer Zemer Peled contributes a sensuous wall-mounted ceramic sculpture ornately assembled from shattered pieces of blue and white porcelain, while Kim Rugg’s work is an intricate quilted rendition of the “newsworthiness” of Warhol’s own imagery – both testaments to the increasing lack of handcraft in recent contemporary art. Penelope Umbrico also confronts issues pertaining to image authorship and the exclusivity of the art world by “appropriating” Warhol’s image from, and up-ending the famed artist’s own interest in mass produced icons.

Others have taken a looser thematic direction, addressing the state of the art world in a less conventional manner. For instance, Ben Weiner’s Orange Flowers do not contain any recognizable imagery, but were created by soaking paper in a mixture of orange ink and opium, a drug famously derived from poppies (the flower depicted in Warhol’s flower series). Long-time gallery artist Vernon Fisher takes a similarly abstruse approach, presenting an uncharacteristically small work, APrIL, which entreats the viewer to contemplate T.S. Eliot’s notion of springtime as it relates to mortality. Similarly, Andrew Schoultz’s geometric iconography illustrates his trademark concerns about imperialist and globalized realities – but now as they relate to the art market – while Christopher Russell’s sublimely clement, hand-scratched photographs reveal a purity only found in authentic, natural experiences in nature. In Bloom uncovers a through-line between artists with disparate practices and preoccupations, prompting a larger “art world” dialogue that is truly Warholian.


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