Crocker Art Museum Exhibition Surveys the Art of Gottfried Helnwein

The Crocker Art Museum presents a survey of the work of artist Gottfried Helnwein in the new exhibition “Gottfried Helnwein: Inferno of the Innocents,” on view from January 29 through April 24, 2011. Organized by the Crocker, the exhibition features 70 major paintings and photographs from throughout Helnwein’s career. Highlights include his iconic portraits of performer Marilyn Manson, works from his major recurring theme, “The Child,” and his most recent series, “Disasters of War.” “Inferno of the Innocents” is the first museum exhibition to examine Helnwein—who has been based in Los Angeles part-time for nearly 10 years—as a California artist.

Gottfried Helnwein, The Murmur of the Innocents 3, 2009. Mixed media (oil and acrylic) on canvas, 86 3/8 x 129 1/4 in. Private collection.

Since he began his career in Vienna in the late 1960s, Helnwein has been known for his radical use of the portrait and self-portrait. His photography, paintings, and monumental installations address themes of inhumanity, violence, and the importance of personal expression with stark and probing psychological intensity. Helnwein’s focus on the innocence and wonder of childhood idyll is exemplified in provocatively themed paintings whose forceful imagery is rooted in the artist’s upbringing in post-World War II Vienna. His was a somber childhood overshadowed by a repressed national memory, in which hope was gleaned from American culture, as represented by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

As part of an emerging Austrian generation vigorously questioning the nation’s role in WWII, Helnwein developed a heightened sense of the need for truth and tolerance. In school, he discovered a persuasive form of argument in visual art. According to the artist, “you can change something with aesthetics, you can get things moving in a very subtle way, you can get even the powerful and strong to slide and totter, anything actually if you know the weak points and tap at them ever so gently by aesthetic means.”

“The contradictions between the human potential for beauty, enlightenment, tremendous accomplishment, and sordid ugliness has been the ongoing topic of Helnwein’s art,” said Diana L. Daniels, associate curator at the Crocker Art Museum. “His is a voice of tolerance, empathy, and personal freedom, and his paintings make concrete for us the role that values, ethics, and faith in humanity play in fostering human happiness.”

“Gottfried Helnwein: Inferno of the Innocents” draws particular attention to the influence of Los Angeles—Helnwein’s current home—on the artist’s practice. Helnwein’s artistic voice is distinguished by the purposeful channeling of the power of cinema, as he brings the narrative style and grand scale of the silver screen to his art. Helnwein’s connection to California is also evident in works such as the panoramic mixed-media painting “American Landscape I (Death Valley),” which will be on view as part of the exhibition.

A full-color catalogue, edited by and with an introduction from Diana L. Daniels, will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue will also include an essay by Mark Van Proyen, art critic and associate professor of painting and interdisciplinary studies at the San Francisco Art Institute. The catalogue will be available for purchase at the Crocker Art Museum Store.


Saturday, Jan. 29, 2 p.m.
Icons in Conversation: Gottfried Helnwein
Join associate curator Diana L. Daniels for an intimate conversation with Gottfried Helnwein, who will discuss his artistic processes and inspirations as well as the influence of his own personal history on his work. Reservations are required. Purchase tickets at or the Admission Desk. $10 members, $15 nonmembers.

Thursday, Feb. 17, 6 p.m.
Playlist: Vox Musica Performs
Vox Musica, a 12-voiced women’s ensemble, will perform “Dreams of Innocence,” a new work by Vox Musica director Daniel Paulson that incorporates select texts from Gottfried Helnwein’s memoirs. Purchase tickets at or the Museum Admission Desk. $6 members, $12 nonmembers. Playlist is part of the program series Thursdays ’til 9. Sponsored by Bank of America.

Thursday, Mar. 3, Noon
Lunch & Learn
Join us for an in-depth 30-minute talk about Gottfried Helnwein’s “Untitled (The Disasters of War 10).” Participants are encouraged to enjoy lunch at the Crocker Cafe before or after the talks. Free with Museum admission.

Thursday, Mar. 3, 6 p.m.
Film Frame: “The Silence of Innocence—The Artist Gottfried Helnwein” (2009, 116 minutes)
Filmmaker Claudia Schmid accompanied artist Gottfried Helnwein for two years and observed him in various creative processes at his home in Ireland and his studio in Los Angeles. This documentary provides a sensitive insight into the artist’s process and personal environment. There will be a post-film discussion with Jesse Drew, associate professor of technocultural studies at UC Davis, artist Ianna Frisby, and Elaine O’Brien, professor of modern and contemporary art history and criticism at CSU Sacramento. Purchase tickets at or the Museum Admission Desk. $6 members, $12 nonmembers. Film Frame is part of the program series Thursdays ’til 9. Sponsored by Bank of America

Sunday, Mar. 6, 3 p.m.
Classical Concert: Trio Voce, Piano Trio
Violinist Jasmine Lin, cellist Marina Hoover and pianist Patricia Tao will perform works by Shostakovich and Beethoven, as well as a piece by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, selected by the group to connect with Gottfried Helnwein’s exhibit “Inferno of the Innocents.” $6 members, $12 nonmembers.

Thursday, Mar. 10, 5-9 p.m.
Art Mix: Gray Matter
Museum goers are invited to explore the themes of inhumanity, violence, and exploitation as seen in “Inferno of the Innocents” by creating a community mural. Learn how to look at contemporary art, and then get lost in the dark and dreamy sounds of Sister Crayon, who will perform in a joint concert with The New Humans. Free with Museum admission. Art Mix is part of the program series Thursdays ’til 9. Sponsored by Bank of America.

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 7 p.m.
20/20: Diana Daniels on Gottfried Helnwein
In this exclusive tour of “Gottfried Helnwein: Inferno of the Innocents,” Associate Curator Diana L. Daniels discusses Helnwein’s artistic biography as seen in this one-man show. Purchase tickets at or the Admission Desk. $6 members, $12 nonmembers.

Thursday, Mar. 24, 7 p.m.
Open Art: CORE Dance Collective World Premiere of “Silent Noise”
CORE Dance Collective, a professional contemporary dance company based in the Sacramento region, is comprised of performance artists with diverse dance backgrounds. Don’t miss the world premiere of “Silent Noise,” an original composition based on the art of Gottfried Helnwein. $15 members, $25 nonmembers. Open Art is part of the program series Thursdays ’til 9. Sponsored by Bank of America.

The Crocker Art Museum, established in 1885, is one of the leading art institutions in Northern California. The Museum offers a diverse spectrum of special exhibitions, events and programs to augment its collections of California, European, Asian, African and Oceanic artworks.

The Crocker is located at 216 O Street in Downtown Sacramento. Museum hours are 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Tuesday–Wednesday; 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Thursdays; 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Friday–Sunday. Every Third Sunday of the month is “Pay What You Wish Sunday” sponsored by Bank of America. For more information, call (916) 808-7000 or visit

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