Mercedes Helnwein “Temptation to be Good”
November 10th, 2010 by Chloe Gallagher
Mercedes Helnwein’s bio reads like the plot line of an implausible Hollywood film, too good to be true. Born in Vienna, Austria, she was raised in a castle in Ireland. Her father is world famous painter-photographer-performance artists Gottfried Helnwein. She is beautiful and stylish, and she counts art, fashion and Hollywood luminaries amongst her closest friends. The icing on the cake? She’s enormously talented. Her precisely detailed, cinematically eerie drawings have been collected by everyone from Nicolas Cage and Beck, to Damien Hirst, who bought out her entire “Whistling Past the Graveyard” exhibition earlier this year. Her work has the restrained suspense of Hitchcock at his best: unsettling without the need for explicit details. Her meticulous technique is a neat counterbalance for the ambiguousness of her scenes and their inhabitants.
And she is not just a talented artist. She’s also a published author. Her novel “The Potential Hazards of Hester Day,” was published in 2008. Helnwein’s talent for narrative tension shows itself in her visual art as well. Critic Peter Frank said of her work, “Mercedes Helnwein does not so much tell stories or even capture moments in her drawings as she triggers possibilities—the possibilities being vaguely unlikely, vaguely unsavory, and not-so-vaguely menacing, rather like inverse Magrittes.” Opening this Saturday November 13th, Helnwein will have a new solo show at Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles entitled “Temptation to be Good,” featuring new large scale works in oil pastel. The opening is sure to be a well attended event, and will be hosted by Helnwien’s collector and friend, Beck.
From Merry Karnowsky’s press release: “In her new exhibition, Helnwein uses oil pastels to create a sultry style that is a nouveau hybrid between painting and drawing. The series of large-scale women’s faces, executed in thick, Technicolor hues, are both vibrant and passive, yielding a decisive tension in their execution. Although discreet in their appearance, there is nothing moderate about the faces of these girls. The stories that dig themselves through their expressions — the slightly parted lips, raised eyebrows, sideward glances or wide-open expressions — although direct, are disquietingly enigmatic. The calamity preceeding their reactions has been pushed off the edge of the paper, and the resulting limbo is seductive and mesmerizing. Influenced by Southern Gothic traditions, the cartoons of Robert Crumb, Nineteenth Century Russian literature, American Motel culture, and the Delta Blues, Helnwein’s style is a subtle balance of humor and quietly bizarre, cinematic suspense. Accompanying the exhibition is a two-minute video projection, which picks up where the drawings leave off and gives the audience a backdoor to the goings-on in the drawings and paintings. The artist’s brother, composer Ali Helnwein, contributed the music.”
Opening Reception Saturday, November 13,
Hosted by Beck
MERRY KARNOWSKY GALLERY
170 S. LA BREA AVENUE
(IN THE ART 170 BUILDING)
LOS ANGELES, CA 90036
November 13 – December 11, 2010
Tues – Sat 12-6pm