Perhaps though, you could say it is the spleen -- the seat of L.A.'s spirit. This narrow curve of artery, crowded with faded brick or concrete two- and three-story structures, rises above pock-marked asphalt that snakes through the edges of the arts district. Here on this evocative, sketchy block, the Austrian-born artist fell in love with Los Angeles and decided to decamp his Irish castle (part-time anyway) to call L.A. home.
As much as what he physically keeps close by while he works -- the books, newspapers, CDs, rubber dolls and plastic figurines -- the city's essence itself feeds his dark, uneasy work, which tends toward hyper-real renderings of violence and the grotesque: bandaged, broken children, scenes of torture, pooling blood, grimacing visages. "Ireland is paradise," he says, "but almost too. For my work I need an urban environment."
Some might think that Los Angeles -- its unrelenting sun, its one-step-away-from-reality perch -- is an incongruous place for someone like Helnwein. What he creates, regardless the medium -- watercolor, oil, photography, performance art, sculpture -- is a thorny psychological excursion into our sublimated self, our obscured corners and dark humors.
GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN - DARK INSPIRATION , Los Angeles Times, Lynell George, 27. January 2008