Gottfried Helnwein Exhibition

Friedman Benda

poster for Gottfried Helnwein Exhibition

This event has ended.

Friedman Benda announces representation of the Austrian-born artist Gottfried Helnwein. The artist's first New York solo exhibition opens September 17th featuring painting and documentary film. A second exhibition presenting a new body of work, currently in progress, will open at Friedman Benda in May 2010.

With subtle and powerful gestures of light and shadow, Helnwein creates enigmatic dreamscapes, reminiscent of both old master paintings and contemporary cinematography. Often referencing his own youth in post-World War II Austria, Helnwein's work is dominated by themes of childhood, beauty, and innocence as well as catastrophe of war and internalized terror. By merging the familiar with the unexpected he evokes suspense and discomfort.

While ideologically drawn from the horrors witnessed by his own generation, Helnwein's paintings are not documentary, offering instead archetypal characters. His paintings present children whose suffering can be universally and metaphorically applied to generalized narratives of psychological and societal anguish and brutality. Innocence (of children) is used as a metaphor for casualties of war and a merciless warning against cultural amnesia and complacency in the face of contemporary violence.

Helnwein directs his narratives at his immediate audience, confronting and implicating his viewers, sometimes as the victims, other times as the perpetrators, but always as characters in his story. Collective audience reception is crucial to his mission, and he uses a number of characteristic devices such as scale and unlikely positioning of his work to intensify the experience and present questions. Exhibitions of his work become personalized dialogues with morality.

The most recent documentary film, The Silence of Innocence, offers first-hand footage and interviews. The title refers to a recurring theme in the history of art of Infanticide, as told in the book of Matthew and painted by Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577-1640). A second documentary, Ninth November Night, shows the monumental outdoor exhibition staged by Helnwein in 1988, of 15-foot high painted portraits of downcast children hung on the 300 foot-long wall between the Cathedral of Cologne and the Museum Ludwig. The work poignantly demands remembrance of the crimes of Reichskristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass," November 9, 1938 when the Nazi regime first coordinated large-scale attacks on German and Austrian Jews and their property, presaging the destruction, deportations, and mass murder of the Holocaust.

[Image: Gottfried Helnwein "The Murmur of the Innocents 1" (2009) mixed media (oil and acrylic on canvas), 198 x 290 cm]



from September 17, 2009 to October 17, 2009

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