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The Child - Works by Gottfried Helnwein

July 31 - November 28, 2004

The Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of, San Francisco, CA

Internationally known Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein will have his first one-man museum exhibition in the United States, opening at the Legion of Honor in the summer of 2004. The exhibition, The Child: Works by Gottfried Helnwein features a major theme that has appeared in his work over the last 35 years. For Helnwein, the child is the symbol of innocence, but also innocence betrayed. In today's world, the malevolent forces of war, poverty, sexual exploitation, and the numbing predatory influence of modern media assault the virtue of children. Helnwein, who grew up in Austria in the somber atmosphere of a defeated country in the years following World War II, has an emotional tie to children who have been robbed of experiencing childhood without trauma.

This exhibition contains approximately 19 paintings, 13 drawings and watercolors, and over 20 photographs spanning a 35-year period from the early 1970s until the present. The photographs are of two types: independent works of art and others that serve to document earlier important performance art pieces (Aktions), and large-scale installation art works.

The subject matter of Helnwein's art concerning the child ranges from subtle inscrutability to stark brutality. Despite the technical beauty of Helnwein's art, it is, instead, its ability to make us emotionally and intellectually reflect on the pertinent themes he chooses that make his art significant. Many people feel that museums should be a refuge to experience quiet beauty divorced from the coarseness and brutality of the world. This notion sometimes sells short the purposes of art, the function of museums, and the intellectual curiosity of the public. While this exhibition will inspire and enlighten many it may also upset others, as sometimes does art that deals with important themes in our society.

On view for the first time in this exhibition is Gottfried Helnwein's 1998 painting Epiphany II (Adoration of the Shepherds), a major gift to the Fine Arts Museums from San Francisco gallerist Martin Muller. This imposing (8 ft. x 10 ft.) painting is a key work in Helnwein's art during the 1990s and in his continuing involvement with the theme of the child.

Visit The Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for more information.

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