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ART Paul Heyer in solo show presented by MCA
by Melissa Wasserman
2018-06-20

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The Museum of Contemporary Art ( MCA ) Chicago features artist Paul Heyer's first-ever solo show, "Chicago Works: Paul Heyer," through July 1.

Heyer is a native of Chicago's south suburbs. Growing up in an arts appreciative household, he said art was always what he was drawn to do.

"I was always one of those kids who was always drawing," said Heyer.

Heyer went on to earn a BA and MFA from Columbia University in New York. His art has been shown in galleries around the globe.

"I would say my art endeavors to reacquaint the viewer with a kind of childlike mentality where all forms are kind of flexible or negotiable," said Heyer. "It's a kind of world view that privileges imagination as the ultimate or penultimate building block of everything. So, from there it can go in any direction."

Heyer described himself as naturally and purposefully in touch with his own childlike perspective. He added he is "always questioning what is the nature of this reality we're in and how can it be renegotiated and what is it."

In his career, he said he has developed a lot of art languages from various artistic influences. The best thing, he said, is he is gradually learning to leave his comfort zone.

"I feel like for me, especially now, given the state of the planet and politics in this country and everything, if there is a mission it is to remind people that everything—we've made all of this up," Heyer said about the mission of his art. "So, all of this is negotiable, all of this can be re-fashioned or reimagined and it's a reminder that everyone has an imagination. I know it sounds so cheesy, but that is what everything is made of."

"I hope that that feeling is release or relief for the viewer," said Heyer of the effect he wants his art to have on viewers. "It's like after a night of intense partying, you're exhausted but you also feel kind of cleansed in a way and I wish that the art could do a little bit of that."

His show at MCA, "Chicago Works: Paul Heyer," features 11 new pieces. The show's work ranges from ethereal paintings on canvas and polyester to sculptures made with ordinary objects, one of which is paired with unique sound.

"I wanted the show to kind of touch on a lot of those [art] languages to give a bigger picture, but also tell a more cohesive story for viewers coming in off the street and might not have a lot of arts education," he said. "It's important to me."

Heyer said there are subtle references to LGBTQ nightlife, specifically rave culture, within this exhibit.

"I do think my experience growing up queer has made me think a lot about this idea of boundaries, permanence and negotiability of the body," said Heyer as he spoke about the queerness within his work. "I think it's queer in that sense and also queer in the sense there's a lot of influence of nightlife and safe spaces and transcendence."

Even with a queer quality, Heyer emphasized that his work and this exhibit are not just geared toward a queer audience.

"I want everyone to be able to go in there and be like 'Oh, I get this," he said. "If I can't reach a larger audience outside queerness, I haven't done my job."

While Heyer was partying at later raves because he was too young in the '90s, he speaks passionately, explaining he has a displaced nostalgia for '90s rave culture.

"In the beginning of that scene, before it got super-druggy, there was this kind of community aspect, where anyone could come in there and there was also fantastic elementals of some utopia and aliens and stuff. So, that kind of has gotten lost along the way, but I reference it because A. it's like a mood and it's part of a mood at the show, but B. I actually believe that optimism and utopianism is embedded in the music itself. You can feel it and it's transmittable, so I think it's important to use it in that way.

Along with his colorful paintings showing images and words, Heyer's sculptures include humble, everyday items that he makes transcendent. He explained, brooms become universes and a silver duvet becomes a field of infinity.

Heyer credited Ariel Zetina, a queer Chicago deejay currently at Smart Bar Chicago, with mixing the sound for one of his pieces.

"We feel like we're so ordinary everyday, but we have this ability to become these transcendent supernovas ourselves," said Heyer. "So, I use these everyday objects that are humble throwaways and turn them into these sublime [things]."

"I hope that people can dip back into a childlike mentality where binaries dissolve and boundaries are more flexible and where everything is a little more playful," Heyer said of his show's visitors.

For more information about "Chicago Works: Paul Heyer," visit www.mcachicago.org/Exhibitions/2018/Paul-Heyer.


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