September 18, 2014
Modernism Gallery San Francisco
'Of Mice and Children' - one man show


"Gottfried Helnwein's extraordinary work depicts the fragile innocence of children. Devoid of grown-up sentimentalism, his images can be overwhelming, especially those that show how that innocence falters in an adult world. Helnwein censors nothing." —Jonathon Keats     Forbes, December 2012

As a child growing up in post-War Vienna, Gottfried Helnwein lived in a world of bleakness, amidst adults who could neither acknowledge nor forget the responsibility they shared for Nazi atrocities. Only when he encountered Mickey Mouse comic books, imported from the United States, did he begin to experience "a world full of won ders". To this day, Mickey remains for Helnwein a transitional figure, passing magically between the innocent imagination of children and the cruel world in which they're forced to live.

Of Mice and Children, Gottfried Helnwein's 16th one-person exhibition at Modernism, captures both the internal and external experience of childhood in a series of new and recent paintings. Intense portraits of children are exhibited together with paintings of Mickey and Donald Duck that are simultaneously alluring and menacing.

As always with Helnwein, a multiplicity of sources inform this body of work, including the writing of John Steinbeck, which Helnwein references in the title of his exhibition. Steinbeck's sense of humanity pervades all of these paintings, and all of these paintings reflect Steinbeck's approach to his craft, as encapsulated in a 1938 journal entry that Helnwein keeps close at hand: "In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other, you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate, and nearly always leads to love."

Over the past four decades, Gottfried Helnwein has developed a remarkably powerful and idiosyncratic visual vocabulary reflected in his masterful use of diverse media: painting, drawing, photography, performance, and stage design. Helnwein addresses a broad range of social and political issues, resulting in challenging and provocative artworks. Although at times disturbing, these works are consistently moving, and seek spiritual beauty often approaching the transcendental.

Most recently the subject of a major retrospective at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Helnwein’s work has been exhibited extensively worldwide, and is featured in the collections of important museums in Europe, Asia and the United States.
Robert Crumb, Gary Baseman, Alex Katz, David Hockney, Kazimir Malevich, Gottfried Helnwein and others
685 Market St., Suite 290
San Francisco, CA 94105
phone (415) 541-0461
fax (415) 541-0425
Studio Downtown Los Angeles
Helnwein at work
Studio Downtown Los Angeles

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