‘Making a Painting More Alive’: Charline von Heyl’s Hirshhorn Museum Survey Is a Master Class in Abstraction

Charline von Heyl | ArtNews | By Phyllis Tuchman


Charline von Heyl’s career has experienced some dramatic ups and downs over the past year. A solo show of her latest paintings made a big splash when it opened the New York art season last September. The effusive critical notices attracted crowds to Petzel gallery in Chelsea. Two months later, “Snake Eyes,” a survey of 36 works by von Heyl from 2005 to the present, debuted at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. However, when the federal government shut down, the show got caught in the crosshairs. With the closing date for the exhibition looming, it looked as if many people wouldn’t get the chance to see the work on view, which had been lauded by many reviewers. But, wonderfully, when the Hirshhorn reopened along with other local institutions, its leadership extended it through April 21.

“Snake Eyes” is a compelling exhibition by an intriguing painter. German-born and New York–based, von Heyl, 59, executes work that deserves to be experienced in depth. It’s easy enough to admire one of her canvases or collages at an art fair, but by not seeing lots of them in one venue, you miss the opportunity to be dumbfounded by the variety of ways she solves aesthetic problems.

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