Charline von Heyl, Guitar Gangster, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 86 1/2 x 82 1/4 inches (219.7 x 208.9 cm). Promised gift of Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté. Courtesy the artist. © Charline von Heyl
Charline von Heyl was a central figure of the thriving 1980s art scene in Cologne before moving to New York in the mid-1990s. A multifaceted artist experimenting with printmaking, drawing, and collage, she is best known for fostering contemporary dialogues between painting and abstraction. Heyl’s paintings are not depictions based on objects or figures; instead, she is interested in creating images conjured from the mind and investigating the material properties of the painting medium.
Guitar Gangster is a large-scale painting that juxtaposes fields of colors, gestural lines, geometrical shapes, and a loose grid. The painting embodies an intentional contradiction between foreground and background, creating a dynamic energy through its combination of architectural and organic forms. About her work, Heyl says: “It is about the feeling that a painting 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. They leave a hole in the mind, a longing.”
This painting joins works in the museum’s collection by Matthew Ritchie and Amy Sillman, which also explore the history of abstraction and complements another work by Heyl in the collection, Untitled, 2003.