The first and last enduring lesson Gottfried Helnwein learned in art school came about the day he refused to sketch yet another classic nude, and instead took a razor to his fingers and drew a portrait of Adolph Hitler in his own blood. The year was 1965, the city Vienna, and all Austria seemed tacitly to have agreed that responsibility for Nazi atrocities would be forgiven if only the whole horrid era were forgotten. So, rather than praising Helnwein's exceptional draftsmanship, using so painfully original a technique, his instructor gathered the entire faculty and accused him, in front of the student body, of attempting to ruin the school's reputation.
"This was the moment when I sensed for the first time," Helnwein has since written, "[that] you can change something with aesthetics, you can get things moving in a very subtle way, you can get even the powerful and strong to slide and totter, anything actually if you know the weak points and tap at them ever so gently by aesthetic means." For the following three-and-a-half decades he has relentlessly pursued that goal, masterfully incorporating everything from painting to performance to photography, regularly causing art world outcry and public fury. Yet as his knockout exhibition at Modernism last October made clear, his art is successful less for its evident tendency to provoke than for its extraordinary ability to perplex.
Ambiguity, of course, has always been the essence of art, setting it apart from mere commentary. Many, from Robert Arneson to Barbara Kruger, have ultimately failed for putting their work in the service of polemic. Had Helnwein taken too fervently to the lesson he learned in art school - had he simply chosen to be an effective agitator - he assuredly would have suffered the same fate. In truth, that initial portrait of Hitler, while gutsy, isn't especially deep. It served as a point of departure, but once he was on his way, the Austrian painter, now working in Los Angeles, let his distance from it grow greater by the hour.
In Downtown (17), we see a woman lying in a tub, apparently dead, while another kneels beside her as if in prayer. Both are unclothed, yet their mutual nudity exposes nothing about either. On the contrary, the cause of that unsettling situation, and its effect, are cropped out, eliminated with all spatial context, every last clue. The image has the look of a noir film still, without fitting into a larger story. An act of violence has been committed, one to which we are privy, yet we don't know how or why it happened. Worse, it's unclear whether we're witness to criminal activity or just watching a scene from a movie.
So we loiter. We stare. We stick around longer than is quite seemly. We draw away only after framing the scene, deciding that the women are either rivals, or lovers, that one is either the other's killer, or could have been her savior. And we implicate ourselves through what we choose to believe. We participate in the violence, acting on that scene: By bringing it to life, we put one of the figures to death. Does it matter if we're seeing a movie? We become, aesthetically, accessories to murder.
Helnwein's whole Downtown series, the substance of this exhibition, presents us with situations that call for our intervention, yet hold tragedy as a forgone conclusion by infuriatingly only allowing us into the scene too late. We see ruined bodies and beaten faces. Or we peer in on the action from above as in Downtown (11), a rooftop brawl just beneath our reach. We try to approach, only to find that the blur of action grows so great we can no longer discern one figure from another, a first from a face. In his restrained blue grisaille, Helnwein creates the candid look of photography with painterly vagueness: the closer we come to the scene of the crime, the farther we are from knowing what's happening. We can search as much as we wish, but brushwork masks all hard information - whether there's death on the roof, fear or expectation to be read in the expression of the bathing woman.
The ambiance of malice in Helnwein's Downtown sequence metaphorically captures the violence ever lurking beneath the surface of our society - generally only visible from afar, or after the fact, or in a movie - suggesting the culpability of a people who watch so impassively. But, more importantly, Helnwein draws out the thirst for blood lying just beneath our skin.
For further research on the artist you can try the following websites referring to the art of Gottfried Helnwein:
The official website of Gottfried Helnwein.
The art of Gottfried Helnwein and a summary of essays and texts about the artist.
Press and media, interviews, Helnwein books, catalogues, exhibitions, collections, biography, quotes and bibliography, art works, Helnwein-archive and links.
Language: English and German.
Die offizielle Website Gottfried Helnweins in deutsch.
Ein Überblick über das künstlerische Werk und die wichtigsten deutschsprachigen Publikationen von und über Gottfried Helnwein, Printmedien und elektronische Medien,
Tageszeitungen,Periodoka,Bücher, Kataloge, Interviews, Zitate, Biographie, Bibliographie, Ausstellungsverzeichnis, Verzeichnis der Werke in Museen und öffentlichen Sammlungen, News update.
The art of Gottfried Helnwein, paintings, Photography, drawings, biography, exhibitions, Gottfried Helnwein-archive, collections, bibliography, essays, quotes and press, event calendar, news update about the artist, guestbook, gallery and links.
It is possible to choose German version only.
Le site officiel francais de Gottfried Helnwein.
Gottfried Helnwein, ACCUEIL, ARTISTE, Atelier, Biographie, Expositions, Collections, Bibliographie, Citations, jour, OEUVRES, Technique mixte sur toile, Aquarelles, Dessins, Photographie, Autoportraits, Installations et performances, ESSAIS, lection d'auteurs, Textes internationaux, PRESSE, lection d'articles, Presse internationale, Internet, CONTACT, Livre d'or, Liens, Country Special, Le site officiel francais de Gottfried Helnwein.
Tout sur l'artiste et son publications actuelles, expositions, tableaux, dessins, biographie, presse, textes concernant Helnwein. | ARTISTE | OEUVRES | ESSAIS | PRESSE | CONTACT
This is the Gottfried Helnwein archive for research and educational purposes.
It includes important texts of and about the artist Gottfried Helnwein, biography, bibliography, exhibitions, collections, paintings, drawings and works on paper, photography, installations and performances and his work for theater,opera and film.
Artist Gottfried Helnwein and the internet.
A survey of the most important Gottfried Helnwein web-sites, links, information on where to find the art-work, essays, exhibitions, museums, galleries, biography, bibliography and the Helnwein-archives.
The essays and texts about artist Gottfried Helnwein.
Press and media, interviews, books, catalogues, quotes and bibliography, Gottfried Helnwein-archive and links to other Helnwein-sites.
English and German.
A summary of essays and texts about artist Gottfried Helnwein.
Press and media, interviews, Gottfried Helnwein books, catalogues, quotes and bibliography, art works, Helnwein-archive and links.
English and German.
Gottfried Helnwein and the Comic Culture
Helnwein's painting "Micky I" in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other comic-related artworks by the artist. "Memories of Duckburg", essays and interviews by Gottfried Helnwein,
Helnwein as curator and collector: the first retrospective museum exhibition of Carl Barks, the great artist who invented Donald Duck. Books, catalogues, press and media.
Language: German and English.
Gottfried Helnwein im Gespräch mit Andreas Mäckler
Die Interviews mit Gottfried Helnwein fanden statt am 13. / 14. Juli und am 21. / 22. September 1990
Theater: Gottfried Helnwein and Hans Kresnik
Selected articles about Gottfried Helnwein in Newspapers and periodicals.
Eine Auswahl von Artikeln über Gottfried Helnwein in Tageszeitungen und Zeitschriften.
Gottfried Helnwein Essays
A selection of texts and essays about Gottfried Helnwein; in chronological order.
Eine Auswahl von Texten und Essays über Gottfried Helnwein in chronologischer Reihenfolge.
Oyher websites referring to yhe art of Gottfried Helnwein:
kleines helnwein -
"Kleines Helnwein". Autor: Rodrigo Malmsten Elenco: Belén Blanco, Martín Von
Tumpling Música original y en vivo: Mariano Durand y Marcelo Vignolo. ...
Margina - Izlozba / Gottfried Helnwein
The summary for this Macedonian page contains characters that cannot be correctly displayed in this language/character set.
Unikankare / kuvataide
2.10.1998 Teksti: Virpi Wuori Kuva: Gottfried Helnwein. HELNWEIN HAASTAA
VUOROPUHELUUN ... Hän itse kuuluu selvästi joukkoon. www.helnwein.com. ...
Centre international d'art contemporain de Montréal (CIAC) - [ Translate this page ]
... Prix: 20 $. Gottfried Helnwein: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs. ... Prix:
15 $ (Version anglaise seulement). Gottfried Helnwein: Faces. ...
Artist Index | Thumbnails | Gottfried Helnwein. Gottfried Helnwein
(b.1948) Austrian. view images. Biography. 1948, Born Vienna, Austria. ...
artfacts.net: Gottfried Helnwein
Gottfried Helnwein. Biography 1948 Born in Vienna (AT) 1965 - 1969
Higher Graphic Instruction and Experimental Institute, Vienna ...
artfacts.net: GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN - NEW PAINTINGS
GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN - NEW PAINTINGS 19.9. - 2.11.2002 Modernism, 685 Market
Street , 94105 San Francisco, CA USA. Untitled (girl sitting ...
Lead White Gallery - GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN Resumé
GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN Resumé. ... Aktion: "Die Akademie brennt" (Academy Burning); with
two fellow students Helnwein stages a rebellion at the Academy of Visual Arts. ...
RTÉ ACE: ARTS CULTURE & ENTERTAINMENT Helnwein mural damaged in ...
17/08/2001 Helnwein mural damaged in Kilkenny A controversial mural by Austrian
artist, Gottfried Helnwein has been damaged at the Kilkenny Arts Festival. ...
www.rte.ie/ace/2001/0817/kilkenny.html - 23k - Cached - Similar pages
Helnwein - Works - www.helnwein.com helnwein
Installations and Performances, the official website of Gottfried Helnwein.
Installations ... writers. Helnwein - Works. www.helnwein.com. ...
Teatro - [ Translate this page ]
... Vuelve al Callejón. "Kleines Helnwein". ... Kleines Helnwein está realizada en coproducción
con el Teatro san Martín. El Callejón Huamahuaca 3759 Tel. 4862-1167. ...
SSG Kunstgeschichte - [ Translate this page ]
... Authors: Petroczi, Eva Year: 2002 (Abstract / Fulltext). The Subversive Power of
Art: Gottfried Helnwein - A concept Artist before the Turn of the Millenium. ...
Modernism Inc. Home Page
... Arnoldi Glen Baxter Marek Cecula Hugo Cloud R. Crumb Philippe Favier Sheldon Greenberg
James Gucwa James Hayward Gus Heinze Gottfried Helnwein, Tony Hernandez ...
www.artnet.com/modernism.html - 30k
Google Directory - Arts > Performing Arts > Theatre > Stagecraft ...
... professional stage. Gottfried Helnwein - http://www.helnwein.com/werke/theater/tafel_1.html
Theater and film section. Work includes ...
... The influence of Barks's work on such filmmakers as George Lucas and Steven
Spielberg and on such artists as Gottfried Helnwein has extended Barks's ...
tastes like chicken: do dogs have lips?
... Read the entire interview. GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN (ARTIST) Wayne Chinsang: In your
amateur opinion, do dogs have lips? Gottfried Helnwein: (laughs) Oh my god! ...
www.tlchicken.com/doglip.php - 101k - Cached - Similar pages
[ More results from www.tlchicken.com ]
InterCommunication No.20 Contents (E)
... Heiner Goebbels' The Liberation of Prometheus IWABUCHI Tatsuji An
Interview with Gottfried Helnwein Interviewer: ITOH Toshiharu ...
... The holes piercing Joyce Pensato's Minnie Mouse and the looming presence of Gottfried
Helnwein's Mickey Mouse, for instance, evoke the brutality of animated ...