MUSEUM STUDIES:

THE ARTWORK OF RICHARD HEIPP

 

REFLECTIONS ON BEUYS (2016-2020)

Though Heipp considers himself a painter at heart, he maintains that his paintings “seem to exist somewhere in a state of artistic purgatory.” He explains, “this is not a purgatory of suffering or punishment, but purgatory as a perpetual state of physical and conceptual ‘in-between.’” According to Heipp, his “works hang an eternal limbo located somewhere between the practice of painting and the image capture of photography.” The Reflecting on Beuys series continues this purgatorial practice.


As a first-generation child of World War II German immigrants, Heipp has been fascinated by the legend, history, and mystery surrounding the German artist, teacher, and “art shaman” Joseph Beuys. For Heipp, Beuys’ “objects are infused with a spiritual presence colored by his narrative, his legacy, and ultimately their display.” The sources for these paintings are taken from a display of Beuys’ only major photographic project titled, Life Course/Work Course (1957-1960) exhibited at the Dia Museum in Beacon, New York. Heipp explains that he was “struck by how the magnificent cathedral-like, repurposed factory space of the Dia building profoundly affected my reading of the artworks on view.”  In 2015 a new installation at the Dia presented him with the opportunity to fully see and document these Beuys performance photographs for the very first time. The images Heipp captured with his camera became “fused and layered” with his own silhouette. According to Heipp, Beuys is revealed through Heipp’s silhouette insomuch as it is “layered in the illusionistic spaces of the photograph, the surface of the photo as an object, as well as the reflection of the museum space captured in the glass of Beuys’ industrial framed objects.” In translating these images into paintings, an uncanny representation of the real and the mysterious emerged.  The works depict multiple unsettling, vacillating spaces and picture planes presenting a metaphor for the mystery of Beuys. These paintings are an index of an index presented in purgatorial space, located somewhere between the real, the representation and the illusion.