If I could have taken anything home with me from the Art Basel-related events in Miami this year (besides exhaustion and a possibly permanent hangover) it would have been one of these amazing, enormous oil pastel portraits by Mercedes Helnwein exhibited at the NADA Art Fair. I was mesmerized and had to go back to take a second and third look. The folks at the Pool Gallery booth told me Helnwein only recently started creating this type of work. Previously she did mostly smaller pencil sketches, some of which you can check out here and here.
Lipsticktracez.com describes the portraits thusly and accurately:
The series of large-scale women’s faces, executed in thick, Technicolor hues, are both vibrant and passive, yielding a decisive tension in their execution. Although discreet in their appearance, there is nothing moderate about the faces of these girls. The stories that dig themselves through their expressions — the slightly parted lips, raised eyebrows, sideward glances or wide-open expressions — although direct, are disquietingly enigmatic.
Damien Hirst bought her entire collection of drawings called Whistling Past the Graveyard in 2010. She’s also been feted by Beck for the opening of her exhibition Temptation to Be Good (on view at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles until December 11).
And I don’t even know what to say about this: she published her first novel, “The Potential Hazards of Hester Day,” in 2008. I guess all I really can say is: I’m in awe.