Open house as part of 'Vienna Art Week' Nov 18, 2013
Official Opening: Nov 19, 2013
Address: Dots Contemporary Art Gallery, Wollzeile 17, 1010 Vienna
Gallery hours: TUESDAY - FRIDAY: 11am - 7pm, SATURDAY: 11 - 6pm
Dots is proud to present Beautiful Disasters, a new exhibition by Cyril Helnwein. Beautiful Disasters is a potent mixture of satire, naked women and irreverent humour; his photographs have the instant appeal of Gary Larson's 'The Far Side' comic strips and the type of special effects one might expect at a Rammstein concert.
Helnwein is not an artist overly concerned with seriousness; if anything he thrives in an environment in which society's concept of 'seriousness' and all its boundaries are disregarded. There's a profound rebelliousness to his work, a willingness to challenge society's notions of what is proper for adults, for public discourse and for fine art. For Helnwein, puns and bizarrely literal and crass interpretations of language fulfill for him "that most important part of life: having fun."
Vienna's "vulgar, yet very refined" sense of humor plays a big role in his idea of fun. Though he moved from Vienna at age eight, his father – Viennese painter Gottfried Helnwein – ensured that exposure to the city's slang and edgy humour survived the family's frequent moves to locations around the world. "My father would still make those Viennese jokes, which are indescribable to someone not familiar with it." Cyril would often see faxes that his father exchanged with the Viennese cartoonist Manfred Deix – in which the two artists would compete to draw each other as ugly as possible, each caricature more obscene than the last.
The photographs in this exhibition are infused with this love for humour. At first glance one might mistake them for conventional glamor shots of beautiful, shapely women, naked or barely dressed, in a variety of compromising poses. But on closer inspection, Helnwein's tongue-in-cheek approach and wicked humor are evident. In 'Holy Shit!' a latex-costumed nun, with black crucifixes taped over her nipples, bows reverently to a pile of feces – over which floats a halo. The 'Asstronomer' features a magnificently caped mystic balancing a telescope on the buttocks of black model while she perches on an elaborate Persian coffee table.
Helnwein sees himself as the opposite to kitschy glamor photographers who "don't have a clue about the basics of lighting" and rely on photo-shopping to create their art. All of Helnwein's photographs are the real deal, even if it means setting a model's head on fire. The rest is beautifully imaginative illusionism, created not by high tech wizardry but by old-fashioned artful deception. A healthy disregard for rules plays its part too: one complex shoot, for example, involved Helnwein directing three semi-nude models in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard on a Sunday afternoon – without a permit. His ambitions for the project are much simpler: "I hope my audience will enjoy the photographs as much as I enjoyed making them."
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