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Mercedes Helnwein: Temptation to be Good

Illustration // Monday, 30 Dec 2013
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Mercedes Helnwein was born in Vienna, Austria, daughter to renowned painter and art provocateur Gottfried Helnwein. With a deep fascination developing early on in her childhood for both the visual arts as well as literature, she began to dedicate her time equally among the two.

She moved to Ireland with her family, where she spent her teens drawing, writing and listening to the blues in a castle. Her influences, which range from Southern Gothic traditions to the cartoons of Robert Crumb, to nineteenth Century Russian literature, American motel culture and the Delta blues, eventually landed her in a style distinctly her own – unsettling, direct and quietly humorous.

In 2003 she added Los Angeles as a second home. Teaming up with friend and photographer Alex Prager, Mercedes Helnwein began exhibiting her art regularly around L.A. in unorthodox one-night shows. Initially a lot of people came to these shows for the free beer, but her intricate pencil drawings of weird goings-on soon began to attract a strong following, making her a vital representative of the L.A. art scene.

In 2008 Simon and Schuster published her first novel “The Potential Hazards of Hester Day”.

Film became an important element in her work in 2008, when she made a three-minute film to accompany her exhibition “Whistling Past the Graveyard” at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles. Since then she has accompanied all her exhibitions with a short-film, for which her brother Ali Helnwein composes the music.

Mercedes Helnwein currently lives and works in downtown Los Angeles and Ireland.

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