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Béatrice Helg: In Light
January 20 - March 5, 2011

Béatrice Helg

b. Geneva, Switzerland, 1956

Béatrice Helg is well-known for her startling fusions of still life photography, geometric abstraction, and industrial materials. Shaped by a passion for both architecture and theatre, she constructs images like stage sets in which to explore the forms, hues and textures of neglected materials such as rusted metal and frosted glass.

Helg studied cello at the Geneva Music Conservatory before pursuing studies in photography in California and New York, and in 1979 she took part in the organisation of Venezia ’79 – la Fotografia, where encounters with Lisette Model and Robert Mapplethorpe strengthened her determination to send her medium in new directions. Influenced by Constructivism, Modernism, and the fabricated photography of the 1970s, Helg began picturing scenes she constructed herself. In series such as Géométrie (1984-7) she created sharply angular tableaux employing materials such as bricks, blocks of concrete, metal plates, and pieces of wire and glass.

She was – and remains – fascinated by spatial geometry, imaginary abstract worlds, and raw and salvaged materials. But over the years her approach has changed significantly. For the series Théâtre de la lumière (1991-96) she introduced architectural drawings to explore notions of perspective. She has also increasingly reduced her components to the barest minimum, often using nothing but a sheet of glass staged against a metal backdrop to evoke the whole history of utopian aspiration that threads through the history of geometric abstraction and modernist photography.

Béatrice Helg lives and works in Geneva. Among her most recent shows include those at the Museum Tinguely, Basel; Institut Valencià d’Art Modern; and Rencontres d’Arles. She has also exhibited at the Photographers Gallery, London; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University. Her work can be found in the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; International Center of Photography, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

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