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2011年4月8日
San Francisco Chronicle
Kenneth Baker
Gottfried Helnwein: A cringe-worthy seductiveness
Individually, the paintings of Gottfried Helnwein can strike a viewer as contrived, manipulative and heartless. But put several dozen of them together, as the Crocker Art Museum has done, and they rock, shaking out the quotient of grave common concern in his private obsessions. Helnwein deliberately evokes the disillusioned view of childhood promoted by another Viennese eminence, Sigmund Freud. But he also fingers the global entertainment industry as an infernal influence, using meticulous realism to place oddly irreal figures borrowed from Disney and anime on a common footing with his human subjects. Despite the lyrical passages in his work, Helnwein appears bent on inducing a distaste for images among consumers of them who have lost perspective on their tyrannizing power. His frequent use of nearly cinematic scale makes this shock therapy both unforgettable and hard to endure.
Born in Adolf Hitler's native Austria, just after World War II, Helnwein felt from an early age, without understanding, the writhings of bad conscience and denial among his family and the wider society. His art effects redress of that popular pathology to some extent and confesses his own fear of implication in it.
When we cringe at his work, as almost everyone will on passing through this show, we do so partly in response to the perverse seductiveness of its ambiguities. Helnwein has titled the show "Inferno of the Innocents," and the exhibition layout draws us unsuspecting into the dark, lurid side of his fascination with corruptibility.
Pictures such as "The Murmur of the Innocents 1" (2009) and "The Murmur of the Innocents 3" (2010) portray children, based on Helnwein's photographs, faintly menaced by presences outside the frame that we finally recognize as the artist's and our own.
He collaborates with the children he photographs and paints, so their appearance cloaked in military jackets or bandaged and smeared with stage blood represents something of their impulses, not merely his own. We can never tell where the boundaries lie in Helnwein's work between improvisation and prompting, fiction and documentation.
Helnwein deliberately evokes the disillusioned view of childhood promoted by another Viennese eminence, Sigmund Freud. But he also fingers the global entertainment industry as an infernal influence, using meticulous realism to place oddly irreal figures borrowed from Disney and anime on a common footing with his human subjects.
Despite the lyrical passages in his work, Helnwein appears bent on inducing a distaste for images among consumers of them who have lost perspective on their tyrannizing power. His frequent use of nearly cinematic scale makes this shock therapy both unforgettable and hard to endure.
Inferno of the innocents
2011, one man show at the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento
Gottfried Helnwein: Inferno of the Innocents: Paintings and photographs. Through April 24;
This article appeared on page E - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Inferno of the innocents
2011, Helnwein solo show at the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento




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