THE ARTWORK OF RICHARD HEIPP
July 8 — August 28, 2021
Museum Studies: The Artwork of Richard Heipp is a comprehensive solo exhibition featuring over sixty works in a variety of media—paintings, drawings, mixed media assemblages, and installations—, that address issues related to perception and illusion. The majority of the works focus on looking at art as the subject layered through systems of vision and the museum display. This new exhibition marks the occasion of the School of Art and Art History’s faculty member, colleague, mentor, research professor and former director Richard Heipp’s retirement after forty-years at the University of Florida. Heipp’s extensive oeuvre included in the exhibition spans the years between 1975 to present day and is exhibited simultaneously at the University Gallery and the Libby Gallery. The artworks in University Gallery feature a selection of Heipp’s artwork ranging from those first created as an undergraduate student at the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1975 to paintings created in 2018. The Gary L. Libby Gallery exhibition focuses on recent paintings from 2019-2021. The catalog for the exhibition was produced thanks the generous support of the University of Florida College of the Arts and the Office of Research.
With the works presented in this exhibition it is important to consider Heipp’s creative process. It begins with carefully composed photographs or digital scans of artifacts, which he then replicates through a painting process employing the airbrush as his primary tool, frequently executed at a large, confrontational scale. Looking at a reproduction of Heipp’s paintings is very different from seeing the object in person, which might be one reason for the question “Is seeing believing?,” posed by Heipp. While looking at Heipp’s reproductions, it seems that the materials he used such as the paint and PVC sheet produce an illusion of luster or reflections on the surface of the painting, as when the depicted light seems to shine in such a way that one might think the paint itself is reflective.
The initial perceptions one has of these works, which may be mediated by photography and reproduction techniques, significantly change when viewed in person, as painted objects. First, the scale of Heipp’s compositions and the detail of his depictions are striking. When looking at Heipp’s paintings, one might spot the very small, individual airbrush “strokes” that come together to create the image. Given how Heipp’s process is painstakingly meticulous (the spray of the airbrush is sometimes as small as the hollow tip of a retractable ink pen), the artist’s reference to the critic, Stephen Westfall’s term “slow painting” is both telling and on point. The information of the surface texture and hard metallic lines of the rendering of the work become soft and much like the strategy implied in slow painting, viewers are compelled to engage in a gradual observation of the painting as they try to take in every carefully considered detail.
One of Heipp’s intended outcomes is for his audiences to perceive the paintings and the objects in them differently than they would in a museum or in photographic reproductions. As Heipp states, “I am infatuated with the way we ‘see,’ and the manner in which contemporary culture consumes images.” This concept is acutely relevant in the present day as we are surrounded by an infinite and increasing number of images of objects, products, ourselves and others, across multiple platforms. Museum Studies brings awareness to the way images are presented to us in consumer culture in order to elicit responses, opinions, perceptions, and even actions that might shift how we perceive the world. In this sense, Heipp’s exhibition offers an experience that its audience takes with them beyond the spaces of art and the museum.