Adam Helms: Hauntology (not really now not any more)

Installation Views
Press release

GRIMM is pleased to present Hauntology (not really now not any more), Adam Helms’ second solo exhibition at the gallery that will be on view at GRIMM Keizersgracht.

Helms is primarily known for exploring the visual motifs underlying images of subcultures, symbols of violence and historical archetypes. Through the assembling, archiving and appropriating of mass-mediated and internet-sourced photographic material, Helms has investigated notions of the performed identities of opposition groups, notions of the heroic versus the anti-heroic and aspects of tropes surrounding masculine identity.

In Hauntology: Swamp Thing (Dante and Beatrice) (2014) and Hauntology: Silver Surfer (Dante and Beatrice) (2014), Helms has adopted a Pop Art vocabulary, examining an intimation of heroism as it relates to desire and the concept of the muse. Two lasercut panels feature comic covers from the the artist’s personal collection, showing two All American super-heroic archetypical figures carry- ing the vulnerable female muse out of harm’s way. From the titles, these two male protagonists are juxtaposed by two classical predecessors: Dante and Beatrice. Here

the roles are reversed, for it is Beatrice —the lifelong but secret object of Dante’s love, appearing in the Devine Comedy as one of his guides— being the one saved and led from danger.

Three large-scale works on paper, Repression (The Thing) #1, #2 and #3 (2016), demonstrate the artist’s extraordi- nary drawing skills. Helms has positioned the classical Vanitas symbol of the skull against a dark vacuum. In a Rothko-esque manner, Helms has repressed the colors by applying multiple layers of graphite, and through this process, tearing the paper surface, allowing the bright aniline to shine through. These drawings are metaphori- cal ‘landscape’ images as much as they are representa- tions of the individual and the unknown. Four smaller pieces were executed in a similar way, with the dye being applied in a triangular pattern, representing a notion of the infinite within the picture plane. The images at their 

centre feature The Dodge Ram logo, The Chrysler Imperial emblem from the 1950’s, the Death’s Head Moth and finally the Nazi Totenkopf, suggesting alliances between commerce, power and the occult and signaling fascist tendencies within the contemporary political landscape of the United States.

Both the impulses behind Helms’ artistic practice and the sensations his work evokes, can be related to the ‘Un- canny’ and the ‘Sublime’, two concepts linking psychology to art. The Freudian notion of the Uncanny describes the discomforting feeling when something is simultane- ously familiar and foreign. The Sublime here points to the conflicting emotions of fascination and fear, feeling both attracted and appalled, while the viewer is at a safe distance from the depicted subject. The exhibition’s title: Hauntology (not really now not any more)–both a refer- ence to a series of essays by Mark Fisher called, Ghosts Of My Life (2014) and to Alan Garner’s novel Red Shift (1973)–and points to the eerie quality of the works and above all to a nostalgia for the future, a future that feels unattainable and lost.