Hollis Heichemer’s Imminence exhibition at the Gross McCleaf Gallery presents 16 works by the artist – the majority on Mylar, two on canvas.
The images are quiet, introspective, restrained, and to see them properly, it’s best to do so without rushing. Each works distills – and rewards – an intensity of attention that goes beyond what we are apt to commandeer in today’s pixelated age. We cannot consume Heichemer’s paintings in an instant. We must receive them. We must be present to the experience of their gradual unfolding over time.
Standing before the emotively charged abstractions, I embarked on a voyage of discovery. The images were not passive, but shifted as I contemplated them, drawing me into private realms that at first gently beckoned and then immersed me so fully, I found myself inhabiting their spaces.
In “Intimate Associations 12”, high-key reds, yellows, and greens combine with murkier shades in the lower half to form a rising, irregular, shifting mass fading into a turquoise expanse. The shape is echoed higher in the frame as if veiled by distance or fog. The faint red streaks are barely noticeable beneath the topmost layers of the blue-green backdrop like faraway structures in cold winter light.
Each detail exists on the verge of recognition: its meaning — like the show’s title implies — imminent, but elusive. Were they buildings? Nebula? Figures in the fog? It did not matter. What held me enthralled were the transformations themselves, the gradually altering possibilities, the freedom of the eye to pursue many escapes at once. .
I was fascinated by Heichemer’s power to invite and assemble my own projections. Yet each time I found myself inside a new pattern of associations, my eyes returned back to the materiality of the work: the brush hairs left entrained in the paint; the dried drops and ridges of pigment on the surface; the rough texture where my attention gained purchase.
Here, on the surface was an artifact-like record of the work’s creation, the stratigraphy of the artistic process itself. Below the topmost brushwork, I could see deeper, earlier, more subdued layers of color that were preserved and visible under more recent, closer brushstrokes. The strata worked together in a polyphony. The earlier layers were not forgotten or covered over. They were vitally present, like intimate traces of time frozen in a palimpsest of paint and ink.
Under the gallery’s spotlights the hand-cut Mylar was luminous, capturing the light reflecting from the frame’s white backing. The polyester’s translucence enhanced the ethereal, dream-like effect of each work, bringing all the layers of paint to light. Then again the physical surface with its texture would recede and I found myself seeing an intimation of a new pattern, another private realm gradually developing in my head like a photographic print in a chemical bath.
IMMINENCE ran December 1-23, 2016, at Gros McCleaf Gallery [127 S. 16th Street]; grossmccleaf.com.