International Texts
October 15, 2006
Denver Art Museum
Radar, Selections from the Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan
Gwen F. Chanzit
Curator and professor, Art and Art History, University of Denver
Gottfried Helnwein, Epiphany (Adoration of the Magi), 1996
Gottfried Helnwein's Epiphany (Adoration of the Magi) is a strange takeoff on a traditional New Testament theme in art. The work depicts a Madonnalike mother displaying her baby to attentive Nazi officers, Painted in hyperrealist grisaille with chiaroscuro effects, the work resembles an old documentary photograph made huge. The eerie, sinister overtones are unmistakable. Who is this mother? What do these officers want with her and her child? What kind of official paper might the officer on the left hold in his hand and what might be its result? Helnwein, characteristically, presents us with an ambiguous, haunting image and leaves us to wonder about its meaning. Helnwein's background perhaps helps explain why his often difficult subjects have been interpreted in various, often contradictory, ways by opposing sides of the political debate about World War II. With its huge size, hyperrealist style, and disturbing content, this unsettling work bestows a psychological anxiety accompanied by a strong magnetic pull. Confronting it, we tend to stare-entranced by both its beauty and its seductive, malevolent overtones.
Denver Art Museum

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