In the liner notes on the back of a 1955 Ahmad Jamal Trio album, the famous music producer John Hammond is quoted as saying: “Ahmad is vastly talented. He has a fabulous technique, which he doesn’t use very often.” Miles Davis is another musician well-known for his stylistic economy; the pauses and spaces often being more important than the notes.
Even a new listener would recognize this quality in no time. The abstract paintings from Ken Heimbuch, now on view at midtown Omaha’s Connect Gallery, are good examples of how this economy of style applies to other arts as well.
Heimbuch, a retired K-12 art teacher, has been painting for decades, but only recently has he brought out his work for exhibit. The fifteen or so pieces, produced over a period spanning from the late 90’s to today, are just small enough to fit cozily into the front window gallery, a small space bounded on one side by large north facing windows.
The paintings are lit by an efficient track system, however, a daytime visit is recommended, as the expansive windows provide ample daylight to capture nuances of color play within.
The artist works in acrylic, in all of its methods of application, from lively, transparent glazes to heavily blended, transitional backgrounds, to modeled hills and valleys sculpted by the pallet knife. He builds dynamic and exotic riffs of accent on top of solid compositions.
Though most visitors will get to this piece last, the perspicuously-titled “Yellow and Violet” stands out from the rest. As a flat (not shiny), but elegantly layered opaque watercolor, the musically gestural work is a play of sound and emotion. A crescendo of ripe lemon, Dad’s dream Ferrari, and Cadmium Yellow Light, obscuring and overlapping, discreetly supported and highlighted by delicate violet accents in places.
Although this work is non-objective, it does not lack context. Connections and relationships are made through contrasts of line, texture and color. The black sky in “Pressure” ominously pressing down on the ground plane, and in the center the resulting expression of a quick blow of a hammer or the incessant formation of a diamond.
In similar fashion, “Orange on Top” burns upward with a yellow to orange-crimson “sky”, all emanating from a dense forest of blue/black darkness. Again we have sound, as in the crackling of a forest fire from a less-than-safe distance.
Many of the works express a spatial landscape, simply through the repetitive use of a horizon line. “Rain and Snow,” notwithstanding its obvious title, is thoughtful piece of mostly off-white ground of snow, modeled and textured with random marks, then glazed to make the little divots and designs in the white stand out. A few areas of ice blue reminding us of the cold.
There is a dense quietness about this; the dampened, muffled sounds of a snowy morning walk. And at the very top of the painting, a soft rain of blue green showers down, maybe melting, blending to the snowpack. At first they seem to be still and welcoming, but a harsh yellow line splits the two, a loud crack of lighting.
In “Two Blue Lines” or the cryptic “C26,” wild and loosely rendered subjects are anchored by hard edged boxes, rectangles of color, lines, which float on the surface and at the same time provide a window to another place.
Work of this sort is wide open to interpretation. Some of the titles, like “Rain and Snow,” left little to the imagination. Others were straight forward descriptions, like “Yellow and Violet” or coded like catalogue numbers, much more appreciated.
Nothing in the show is overdone. Like most non-objective abstracts, the work is visceral. The work is economically stylish; each piece seems as though one more mark may have ruined it. The artist knew when to pause, knew the spaces as well as the notes.
Ken Heimbuch’s work will be on display through December 29th. The Connect Gallery is located at 3901 Leavenworth Ave. Further information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org