Massey Klein Gallery is pleased to announce, No Friends, a solo exhibition of new paintings and drawings by Eric Helvie. This is his fourth show with the gallery. The exhibition will be on view from March 19th through May 1st with an opening reception on Sunday, March 21st from 12-5pm.
No Friends, presents an entirely new series of portraits that explore and develop a group of Helvie’s earliest works.
“The idea for the No Friends series started back in 2006,” Helvie says, “I was young, living in a small town and wanted to make ten photorealistic portraits, one of each of my close friends and call the series, Ten Friends. Then my friend Matt Hawke told me to read Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut and a vast weirdness began to set in. I’d sit down to paint someone as realistically as I could and things would distort. The faces began to look more plastic and in some cases the eyes were missing altogether. I can’t blame it all on the science fiction though. I think a lot of it had to do with my limited ability as a young painter. I wanted to make things “look real” and I couldn’t do it. So somehow the answer was to just let go and allow the sci-fi to take over.”
Helvie continued to use his friends as the subjects but he says it wasn’t about them anymore.
“Instead of ten friends, all of a sudden I had ten portraits that seemed to be not quite human and not completely ok. I started to think of them as humanoid creatures locked into parasitic relationships, the kind of relationships where their energy was constantly being drained away. So I called the series Portraits and Parasites, printed a little catalogue and that was that. I moved to New York in 2009, couch surfed, showed those early portraits in a small group show at a tiny gallery in Williamsburg and thanks to an introduction through my friend Jeremiah Wilson and an insane stroke of luck, sold most of them and used the money to get an apartment. Then I started to make different paintings. I moved on.”
“But, late in 2019 and at the beginning of 2020 I began to look back at those old portraits. I visited my friend and collector in LA who bought a few of those first works. He still displays them in his living room. I went to my friend Casey Brooks’ house. She’s an incredible photographer and film director who I’ve know since we were teenagers. She shot the work for the Portraits and Parasites catalogue. I didn’t have any money to pay her back then so I gave her one of the portraits and she still has it displayed in her apartment in Queens.”
“So I started to wonder what would happen if I began to make those portraits again. What would happen if I revisited that headspace and refreshed it. I ran a few tests, played around a bit and suddenly it was as if a dam burst. The works felt like they were making themselves. I was holding the brush or the pencil but the drawings and paintings were calling the shots. And, the entire time I was thinking about how everything started with the idea to paint ten friends, but, it never worked out so, No Friends, I guess.”
Eric Helvie was born in 1984 in Portland, Oregon. His work deals directly with the act of seeing, obsessive looking, and optical ambiguity. Pulling from art history, television and film, his paintings act as props and icons: objects that glean meaning from their context and point to a larger system of understanding. His work is held in numerous private collections.