Mary Heilmann at the CAM

These photos aren't from the Contemporary Arts Museum (Houston), where I saw the Mary Heilmann show last week; they are from the Secession in Vienna. The CAM exhibit looked somewhat like this, but the paintings enjoyed less wall space, the walls met at angles, not perpendiculars, the floor wasn't glossy, and there were no domineering overhead light panels. I liked the crowding and the cockeyed space--you could see more at a glance and note the all-important subtle differences in these thinly painted, deceptively simple canvases. The boxy seats with lawn chair webbing were a nice touch--I didn't ask if you could sit in them, fearing the answer would be no. Heilmann is the best of the smart dumb painters (abstract variety) and could teach the young'uns cluttering the galleries with their graduate thesis shows a thing or two about restraint, that is, knowing when a piece is done, but also how not to quit a work too soon. Her intelligently worked out pseudo-geometry, clunkiness of paint application, and exquisite eye for color make an unbeatable combo.