"Ellen Heck: Connections"
The walls at Wally Workman are almost alive with figurative humanity captured with a sublime printerly grace
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Nov. 14, 2014
Wally Workman Gallery, 1202 W. Sixth
Through Nov. 29
"Heck is an incredibly accomplished young artist," notes the Wally Workman Gallery statement concerning Ellen Heck's new show, "Connections."
A statement like that, because in this case it's something of an understatement, can make a person blink – and you don't want to blink too often, to let your eyelids get even fleetingly in the way of what's presented here. Maybe temper the impact of the statement with the idea that "young" is a relative term, especially because Heck is already 30 and you have some incredibly accomplished friends in their mid-20s, right?
But don't get caught up in such quibbles. Instead, focus on "incredibly accomplished" and reckon that it refers not only to the artist's representation in several fierce museums around the world but also to the scope and depths of her skill. Such focusing is easy if you're standing in the Workman Gallery, because the walls are almost alive with focal points, focal points of beauty and craft and design and precision and the capturing of figurative humanity (children, in this case) with a sublime printerly grace. The drypoint and woodcut prints here, in portrait after portrait, are what – due to the size of the images, the perfectly balanced power of the compositions, and the nuances of expressions captured – would be called stunning. Except that a viewer can't be stunned by a range of colors this gently muted, can only be lulled into deeper appreciation for the fine work those colors embellish, for the evocative visions they enhance.
Bonus: When a master of the art, like Heck, chooses to take a break from the realm of the figurative and experiment with abstraction, those abstract works, riffing on color wheels and various deconstructions thereof, are of a similar surpassing beauty. And many of these, too, are on display at the Workman Gallery.
Note to the artist: Please, Ms. Heck, illustrate a book sometime soon? A children's book, an adult's book, just something that would properly accompany the rich narrative feel your works already possess? Our libraries yearn.