Marianne Boesky Gallery is pleased to present Uncanny Valley, a solo exhibition of new works by Adam Helms. This is the artist’s third solo show at the gallery, and the first to be held at BOESKY EAST.
Adam Helms mines imagery from mass media and journalism to repurpose and challenge established visual tropes. Helms is an artist-meets-anthropologist, collecting a range of source material from film stills, comic books, magazines, and the Internet to inform the concerns of his work. Whether through paintings and drawings on paper, prints, or light boxes, Helms reveals how images can be reproduced and recontextualized to take on different narrative interpretations and symbolic qualities as art objects.
With his latest body of work, Helms takes as a point of departure a hypothesis developed in the 1970’s named the “Uncanny Valley.” This theory, applied to the field of human aesthetics, measures an observer’s level of discomfort and unease when presented with something that mimics a human or that appears to have human features. Helms incorporates the ethos of the Uncanny Valley into his own work through the use of a repeated element in gouache paintings on paper sourced from film stills. Large, swollen, and bulbous noses and ears grow from the faces of each portrait (a gesture of iconoclasm reminiscent perhaps of an aged, bizarre Mickey Mouse). Using stills from Dr. Strangelove, Apocalypse Now, and Dawn of the Dead, to name a few, Helms questions these representations of male power, posturing with a phallic, Freudian sensibility. He renders the images identifiable yet foreign, grotesque, and ultimately uncanny.