By Amy Cavanaugh

On March 21, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston opens a show by Charline von Heyl, bringing the artist’s paintings to Boston for the first time. Senior curator Jenelle Porter calls her work “extraordinary.”

charlinevonheyl 7 Charline von Heyl at ICA Boston

Igitur, 2008 acrylic on linen, 82 x 74 inches, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Enid A. Haupt Fund, 2010

“She is responding to the canvas, color, paint, materiality, gesture,” Porter says. “However, it is not pure abstraction. Although her paintings are almost without exception, nonrepresentational, they involve an ongoing process of voracious looking [at images, at books, at objects] on the part of the artist.”

The show runs through July 15. For more information, visit What made you want to do a show of von Heyl’s work?

Jenelle Porter: Quite simply, I find her work extraordinary. It’s tough, it’s beautiful, it’s incredibly compelling. It leaves you wanting more. Charline had not had a big museum show and I thought it was the right time to do a survey. What sets von Heyl apart in the contemporary art world?

JP: This is almost impossible to answer for reasons aside from Charline’s art. I can say that no one else makes art the way she does: no one paints like her. Though Charline strives to generate a body of painting characterized by visual diversity, if you are paying attention, you know when you are in front of one of her paintings. How would you describe her aesthetic?

JP: Von Heyl’s work is marked by an abstract vocabulary based on the dynamic interplay between expressive gestures and static shapes. Her vibrant and enigmatic works demonstrate that painting remains enormously relevant, despite cyclical pronouncements to the contrary. With their dynamic energy, their contradictions and reversals, and their intentional confusion of foreground and background, these paintings require (and desire) careful looking, but refuse to yield to the impulse to name, identify, and define.

charlinevonheyl 9 Charline von Heyl at ICA Boston How many works will be displayed? What’s the breakdown between paintings and works on paper?

JP: We will present a five-year survey of Charline’s work. The show will comprise 12 paintings and 2 sets of collage-based works on paper. How will the show be arranged?

JP: Basically two rooms. The larger room will be divided by a floating wall. What makes this show a good fit for the ICA?

JP: Charline’s work has never been shown in Boston before, and the exhibition will give ICA visitors the chance to discover the work of an outstanding artist whose work demonstrates that painting is still intensely relevant in contemporary art.

Hours: Tue and Wed, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thurs and Fri, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sat and Sun, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Admission: $15 general admission; $13 seniors; $10 students; FREE members and youth 17 and under; FREE for all from 5 to 9 pm every Thursday for ICA Free Thursday Nights; FREE for families (up to 2 adults accompanied by children 12 and under) on the last Saturday of each month with the exception of December.

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