Crocker Art Museum Sacramento
Mark Van Proyen
Gottfried Helnwein 'Inferno of the Innocents' - one man show
Although the majority of Gottfried Helnwein’s paintings from the past two decades take the solitary faces of young girls as their subjects, many others are groupings of multiple figures that use the conventions of Baroque and Mannerist pictorial composition to suggest or outrightly posit a dramatic confrontation between innocence and evil. Never is it made clear which will survive, and this ambiguity is exactly what makes Helnwein’s figure groupings disturbing, fascinating and compelling, simply because they give the viewer little choice but to complete the outcome of that confrontation in his or her own imagination. Moreover, they also remind the viewer that such a confrontation always exists, regardless of whatever ideological mask its participants may chose to wear. In these paintings, no state of blamelessness goes unmolested, even when the molesters claim to have nothing but the best of intentions. ...
Crocker Art Museum Sacramento
Curator: Diana L. Daniels
Gottfried Helnwein - Inferno of the Innocents, retrospective at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, January 29 - April 24, 2011
The obvious vulnerability of the subject makes this unusually unsettling imagery. That the scene is playacted is obvious. Based on a photograph staged by the artist, the subject of this watercolor and its details are theatrical inventions. The wrapping is ad hoc, the medical tubing ersatz, and the twine superfluous. Helnwein has successfully tapped into our deep aversion to damage to the flesh, made more acute by the subject’s youth. In one sense the bandaged head is an artifact of twentieth-century warfare, one that gained visual resonance through newsprint photography, which made the casualties of war graphic and real for the masses. In another sense, the bandaged, although not often bloodied invalid, is a visual trope, robbed of its graphic nature by having been reduced to a commonplace in cinema and television. What Helnwein succeeds in doing with Beautiful Victim I is to make us see afresh and react before we can safely square away the image. ...
University of California Press
Two years after Beuy's death the Viennese artist Gottfried Helnwein created a striking and odd image bringing Breker and Beuys together. Helnwein posed the eighty-eight-year old Breker unconfortably holding Helnwein's portrait of Beuys in front of his chest. The older man with furrowed brow directs the glossy, skeletal image of Beuys-like an icon painting-away from his own gaze and toward that of the viewer. ...
01. May 2009
University of Minnesota
ARTS 1001 Spring 2009: Margaret's Group
Both Helnwein and Jeff Koons work in a wide variety of media—frequently on a large scale—and incorporate elements of pop culture and sexuality. But whereas Koons rejects hidden meaning and embraces the superficial “kitsch” element, Helnwein reappropriates these symbols as a means of enhancing his message. Symbols of innocence take on a decidedly sinister air—in Helnwein’s “Los Caprichos” painting installation, a maniacally grinning plastic Mickey Mouse looms over a series of canvases depicting maimed and vulnerable children. Yet Helnwein’s work comes across as more a statement about general victimization of the young and loss of innocence rather than purely a jab at pop culture. Both Koons and Helnwein have produced multiple self-portraits, but they are also drastically different in tone. Koons’ self-portraits glorify the artist in an excessively heroic manner that verges on the ironic, flawlessly groomed and surrounded by attractive women and/or the trappings of success. Helnwein’s self-portraits, on the other hand, depict the artist as a bandaged, disfigured, sub-human figure, often splattered with pigment and displaying all manner of expressions of pain and worry. Both artists indulge in a certain narcissism, but the effect is utterly different. This contrast highlights the basic difference between the two artists: Koons is content to revel in the decadent and superficial, while Helnwein is obsessed with physical and psychological anxieties. ...
08. September 2008
Head of School of Humanities at Waterford Institute of Technology
Installation in the City of Waterford by Gottfried Helnwein
“All a poet can do today is warn”, World War 1 soldier poet, Wilfred Owen, wrote in a draft Preface for a book of anti-war poems he would never see published. He was killed on the eve of Armistice Day 1918. World War One, The Great War, The War to End All Wars . . . within twenty summers, Europe was engulfed again in the even greater catastrophies of the fascist era. The work of Gottfried Helnwein has its genesis in these years. They obsess him as a creative artist. As a kind of guardian angel, he grapples with them on our behalf. That such a nightmare would never visit us again. Or our children. Or our children’s children. Or “. . .all those still to come”. ...
Rudolfinum Gallery, Prague
Gottfried Helnwein - one man show
Let us take one of Helnwein's key images, "Epiphany 1 (Adoration of the Magi)", 1996 (mixed media on canvas, 210 x 333 cm). The figures of the officers in Nazi uniforms observing their leader are genuinely taken from an old photograph. Adolf Hitler is replaced by a seated figure of a young, distinctly Aryan blonde woman in a white dress, holding up with both hands upon her knee a standing, naked, strangely dark haired male infant, who in his face bears certain similarities to his predecessor in the original photograph. The figure of the Madonna, displaying her son to be honoured by the kneeling shepherds, is almost a literal paraphrasing of the painting entitled La Madonna del Rosario, finished by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in 1607. ...
Fenton Gallery, Cork
Dublin Art Fair 2008
Gottfried Helnwein's classic yet unnerving images transform sentimental representations of childhood into portraits of individual subjects frozen at the moment of suffering. His photo-paintings pirouette on the fine line between chocolate box pictures/excessive sentimentality and the cost to children of being treated as commodities, of suffering emotional or physical pain at a grown-up's hands.
High pictorial and technical values create compositions that recall contemporary cinema and seventeenth-century painting, expanding the treatment of time into epic. This apparent grandiosity plays against the immediacy of each suffering subject, underlining the different experience of time in childhood. Small hurts can devastate when you're a child. Big hurts stay with you for years, as survivors of Hitler's Anschluss testify.
Now, in the age of virtual use and abuse of children, Helnwein's insistence on valuing the humanity and charm of the littlest, the least powerful, offers a counterpoint to claims that suffering counts most when you're grown-up. It opens his practice into a series of pictorial mise-en-scènes, as did Rembrandt's tableaux in The Blinding of Samson (1636) or The Night Watch (1642). ...
10. May 2007
Verlag Christian Brandstätter
Lentos Museum of Modern Art, Linz
Gottfried Helnwein's latest exhibition, "Face It", is the artist's first show in his native Austria since 1985. A retrospective of 40 works from the 1970s to the present, it is more shocking than the Royal Academy's infamous "Sensation" of 1997. Helnwein aims to disturb not with, say, an elephant-dung Madonna, as Chris Ofili did then, but with a far more controversial Virgin. Of all his paintings, the most disturbing is Epiphany (1996), for which he dips into our collective memory of Christianity's most famous birth. This Austrian Catholic Nativity scene has no magi bearing gifts. Madonna and child are encircled by five respectful Waffen SS officers palpably in awe of the idealised, kitsch-blonde Virgin. The Christ toddler, who stands on Mary's lap, stares defiantly out of the canvas. Helnwein's baby Jesus is Adolf Hitler.
(Julia Pascal, New Statesman, UK, "Nazi Dreaming", April 10, 2006) ...
15. October 2006
Denver Art Museum
Radar, Selections from the Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan
Gwen F. Chanzit
Curator and professor, Art and Art History, University of Denver
Gottfried Helnwein's Epiphany (Adoration of the Magi) is a strange takeoff on a traditional New Testament theme in art. The work depicts a Madonnalike mother displaying her baby to attentive Nazi officers, Painted in hyperrealist grisaille with chiaroscuro effects, the work resembles an old documentary photograph made huge. The eerie, sinister overtones are unmistakable. Who is this mother? What do these officers want with her and her child? What kind of official paper might the officer on the left hold in his hand and what might be its result? Helnwein, characteristically, presents us with an ambiguous, haunting image and leaves us to wonder about its meaning. Helnwein's background perhaps helps explain why his often difficult subjects have been interpreted in various, often contradictory, ways by opposing sides of the political debate about World War II. With its huge size, hyperrealist style, and disturbing content, this unsettling work bestows a psychological anxiety accompanied by a strong magnetic pull. Confronting it, we tend to stare-entranced by both its beauty and its seductive, malevolent overtones. ...
14. September 2006
University Press of America, Inc.
The facade of Disney and America in the guise of the Mouse is one of the things that Helnwein and others present to us. Claes Oldenburg took the facade to its literal extreme when he proposed a flat Mouse's image for a facade to Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, and produced a flat Mouse sculpture. Helnwein, Oldenburg and others are using the Mouse to make social and cultural comments about our society, in the broadest sense, but with humor. ...
01. September 2006
April 10 – September 30, 2006
21c Museum is North America's first museum dedicated solely to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art of the 21st century and will host a series of guest curators. The 21c collection features both emerging artists and acclaimed international artists, such as video artists Bill Viola and Tony Oursler, photographers, Andres Serrano, Sam Taylor Wood, and David Leventhal, sculptors Yinka Shonibare and Judy Fox, and multimedia artists Chuck Close, Gottfried Helnwein, Red Grooms and Kara Walker. ...
02. June 2006
Lentos Museum of Modern Art Linz
"In memory of the children of Europe who have to die of cold and hunger this Xmas", was written on the draft of a poster in the winter of 1945 by the Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka who emigrated to London. He had 5000 copies printed at his own cost and posted in underground stations.
In late autumn 1988 the Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein, who emigrated to the Rhineland, mounted a series of five meter high photo prints with children's faces along a one hundred meter long wall between the cathedral of Cologne and the Museum Ludwig. He called the work Selection (Ninth November Night). It is a work of monstrous expression and painful effect. His title recalls the anniversary of the so-called Reichskristallnacht, through which Helnwein gives the children's portraits their almost overwhelmingly harrowing effect.
As we were preparing his exhibition for the Lentos Art Museum together with Gottfried Helnwein, I was researching at the same time for a different project about Kokoschka. The story of the London posters was new to me. Unintentionally and unexpectedly the two artist lives blended into one another for a brief poignant moment. With a tremendous creative effort, ability to communicate, organizational experience, implementation energy and financial resources, both artists devoted themselves on a specific occasion to an appeal: Remember! ...
01. March 2006
Lentos Museum of Contemporary Art, Linz
Essay for the catalogue - Face it - The Art of Gottfried Helnwein
"She is not as old as she seems, though age, at least in her case, is an elusive notion. In fact, it is her childhood that is fixated, and not out of nostalgia. True, it would take a daring leap of imagination to connect pudgy little hands to the body as it is now, or to visualize the dimples and the baby teeth. The little-girl-who-once-was thought: Maybe I am really dead. Because only dead people get pushed so deep down".
(From: And the Rat Laughed, by Nava Semel).
Helnwein is a great believer in the ability of art to pass emotional memory on, as a reminder of the past or mainly as a warning of what the future might hold, for humanity, as far as he is concerned, has not learnt its lesson. Is there atonement in his artistic endeavors? I prefer the Jewish concept of - tikkun, purification of the soul. It has a deeper meaning than the physical healing of scars, for it elevates us to the highest sphere of the spirit. The wounded girls close their eyes, but they are not blind. Behind their closed lids their gaze is clear and penetrating. ...
Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris
Conservateur en chef, chargé des collections, Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris.
The production of the Disney studios quickly attracted artists, especially from the movie world. Eisenstein and Prokofiev, when they were working on Ivan the Terrible (1945), took an interest in the work of Disney and the conductor Léopold Stokowski on Fantasia. By the mid-sixties Disney enjoyed immense, universal popularity. Since the release of Snow White in 1937, several generations have been raised on his films and have not forgotten them. Pop Art made Mickey and Donald into icons.
As the French painter Robert Combas put it in 1977: “Mickey is no longer Walt’s property, he belongs to us all”. After drawing on Western art from all periods, Disney’s world became in its turn a source of inspiration for artists as diverse as Christian Boltanski, Gottfried Helnwein, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Bertrand Lavier, Peter Saul and Gary Baseman. ...
30. November 2005
Akademy of Motion Picture Arts and Science
Beverly Hills, California
Ellen M. Harrington
A documentary on the works of Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein commemorating the Reichskristallnacht.
For the past twenty-four years the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Foundation, in association with the UCLA Film and Television Archive, has presented a series of film programs featuring the outstanding documentaries of the previous year.
The film, NINTH NOVEMBER NIGHT, was considered by the Academy’s Documentary Screening Committee to be one of the outstanding documentaries of 2004. It is our wish to include a screening of "Ninth November Night" in this prestigious series on the evening of Wednesday, November 30, 2005. ...
06. November 2005
California State University - University of Wisconsin
Ph.D., Esq., Professor Emeritus of Sociology, CSUDH
Look at Helnwein's painting under Visual Sociology
Help us find visual, aural, metaphors that will let others understand the importance of engagement in this process. Look at Helnwein's painting under Visual Sociology. I left it up. What was Helnwein saying? Why was he willing to offend. Why do Beau and Michael want to shake us up? How are those things related? Why did one of my students make a giant box that when opened had a lovely smiling face inside that said "F^&* the Patriot Act"?? Isn't that a lot like what Helnwein and Kiefer and Beuys were doing? Maybe saying "wake up and look at what you're doing?" ...
03. November 2005
The Stiletto Projects
A virtuoso and a visionary with one eye behind the veil of the world, the other reflecting endless horror, beauty, loss, humour and melancholy - all with a steady hand. The position is supreme, the means are penetrating and the message as deep as it gets. To me the strange silent directness in Helnweins work is unrivaled, no other artist today tells the dim story of the world in a more disturbing and moving way. His work, views and perspectives are completely congruent and appeals to me in a very direct and personal way. ...
02. November 2005
McGill-Queen's University Press
IMAGE & IMAGINATION, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal 2005
A Fable in Pixels and Paint
Ever since I clicked on it, Gottfried Helnwein’s "American Prayer" (2000) has taken up residency in my mind.
I began to discover a semiotic richness in this painting worthy of what W.J.T. Mitchell has called a "metapicture" - a "picture that [is] used to show what a picture is". Mitchell situates the concept of metapicture in "'iconology', the study of the general ﬁeld of images and their relation to discourse," thereby cutting across Greenbergian self-reflexivity into an expanded context that includes popular culture as well as contemporary art. In this wider cultural field, a metapicture does more than reflect on the nature of the picture itself and calls into question "the self-understanding of the observer". I will argue that "American Prayer" derives its theoretical relevance partly from its concealed hybridity, from the interplay between technological media and painting. In this work, the substitution of one medium by another reinforces the meaning that can be created from the iconographic substitution of the child by Pinocchio, and the replacement of the deity by Donald. In the end, Donald’s sideways glance at us indicates that this picture is really about us, the observers; it questions our own place in a cultural web of illusionism spun from the abiding human desire to overcome death. ...
01. November 2005
McGill-Queen's University Press
IMAGE & IMAGINATION, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal 2005
A Fable in Pixels and Paint
05. October 2005
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey
The Essl Collection of Contemporary Art
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey presents the exhibition Austrian Contemporary Art and Post-war Painting: The Essl Collection, a seminal encounter with the most commanding pictorial propositions engendered in the second half of the 2Oth century.
Gottfried Helnwein digresses from fleeting contemplation with his Self-portrait: the canvas on display prompts an immediate, impulsive reaction... ...
Quotes by Helnwein
Mixed Media on Canvas
Installations and Performances
Theatre and Film
Texts by Helnwein
Quotes by Helnwein