In the last 24 hours of Undressed at the Helmut Newton Foundation, the canvases acquired new life, as three Berlin street artists vandalised the portraits in their own style. Watch as they transform the exhibition’s temporary wallpaper, and hear the methods behind each, above.
Hera of Herakut
Weaving tropes of Greek mythology and Grimm fairytales, the raw sketches and ad-hoc materials of Hera’s works are a fitting counterpoint for Undressed’s wallpaper canvases. Whether it’s Kate Moss morphing into an eagle, a mermaid gliding between the legs of a statuesque nude, or a team of pixies applying makeup to a 90s portrait, Hera’s characters acquire a mythic status all of their own. Herakut is the collective name of Berlin-based artists Jasmin Hera and Falk Akut, whose work has been transported from the walls of Berlin streets to those in the Helmut Newton Foundation, after more than 13 years of their heretic mythology coming to life.
Looking at Hera’s work, one can see the diversity of its characters, the savagery of the forms, and beautiful crudeness of their materials. As in the fairytales Hera mimics, their women are wide-eyed but powerful, with a kind of kinship to the natural world, emboldened by the creatures who would otherwise threaten. In Hera’s version of Red Riding Hood, her coat is spun from a pack of wolves, who dance along its seams – no longer is she menaced by them. Undressed is an exhibition whose models thrumming with an inner life; with character, or charm, or defiance. Hera’s figures do the same – they may be sketched in a wave of chalk or a thick sprawl of paint, but they are all thrillingly alive.
Sandra Chevrier’s paintings, where hyperrealist images of women peer out from masks of comic book panels, question our attitudes on femininity, fragility, and the power of the female gaze. Referring to herself as a “gaze collector”, Chevrier’s superheroes interrogate the art world’s portrayal of women, and hint at the vulnerability that so often accompanies overt heroism, all using her unique brand of pop art. This interrogation of our expectations of perfection, commonly placed on women, is neatly balanced by the comedy of her chosen comic prints.
Chevrier’s instantly recognizable figures have helped her swiftly rise the rungs of the contemporary art scene; firstly in Canada, then in the international sphere. Paired with the larger-than-life portraits of Undressed, both Chevrier’s and Mario’s offer a metaphorical undressing; peering at the layers of self that remain when the rest have been stripped away. Statuesque, defiant, ambiguous – Chevrier reinvents Mario’s figures, adding their gazes to her ever-expanding collection.
Mimi Scholz’s animations defy easy categorization; mystic, mythic, and with a gothic edge, her chaotic portraits are the result of a months-long digital process. Her layers of characters often crowd the canvas, pulling the viewers’ eyes in different directions – the occasionally hectic effect is deliberate, as we are sucked into the narrative and become familiar with its cast of exaggerated figures.
Scholz’s pastel colours, and shiny finish, are a striking contrast to the bare skin of the Undressed figures. With her intervention, Mario’s portraits become the leading characters in Scholz’s narratives, which alter depending on the direction of the viewer’s gaze. The female figures in Scholz’s works are inquisitive and strong– by pairing them with Mario’s portraits, a new narrative is created, and a new vision of Mario’s work can be perceived.