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Danny Heller: Facing the Past, Shaping the Future

Architectural Relevance

Life in the US after the World War II was strongly influenced by the economic expansion. Being on the winning end of the warfare, the USA was in a better economic condition than most of the countries in the world. Strategically utilizing this enormous postwar advantage, USA left the world fascinated by the social, cultural and technological advances that were being made, thus, strongly influencing other countries to do the same, a process known as Americanization. Stemming from the concept of total functionality and economization, mid-century modern artists began their protests against the institutionalization of art to make art accessible to everybody.

"Butterfly Roof, Alexander House" by Danny Heller, oil on canvas, 2016

The seductive imagery of mid-century American culture and lifestyle inspired artist Danny Heller to create hyper-realistic oil paintings and grayscale drawings, depicting stylish retro elegance of the mid-century American aesthetic. Having grown up in sunny Los Angeles suburb of the San Fernando Valley, surrounded by vast tracts of homes developed in the postwar ‘boom’ of the 1940s and 50s, the artist paints the environment which he is familiar with.

"Williams Residence" by Danny Heller, oil on canvas, 2016

“What initially led me to paint mid-century American architecture and design was the words of a former art professor, ‘Paint what you know’.”

"Twin Palms Landscape" by Danny Heller, oil on canvas, 2011
"Eichler Entryway" by Danny Heller, oil on canvas, 2008

Purposeful Design

With strong lines, bright colors, and simplified forms, Heller evokes the famous iconography, blending mid-century Modernism and the surrounding environment. Trying to form engaging scenes, along with a realistic style, Danny uses dramatic angles, lighting, and layout, thus, making the space dynamic. Heller highlights various elements of mid-century imagery: walls of intricate breeze block patterns, dynamic rooflines of modern Alexander Tract homes, fins of a 1958 Cadillac, kidney-shaped swimming pools, and with excellent skill and technique, he paints a lavish, idealized setting.

"Mercury In Drieway" by Danny Heller, oil on canvas, 2018

 “I thought these paintings should act as a type of documentation – and a bit of an idealization – of these suburban homes, which the larger public deemed ‘mundane’ or ‘boring’.”

"Butterfly Roof and Inner Tube" by Danny Heller, oil on canvas, 2016

“What’s important for me is not just a respectful reproduction of these touchstones of design, but communicating their optimism and their continued relevance in our daily lives.”

In his attempt to build and preserve a new respect for the past, Heller uses the mid-century American imagery and renders it in his individual style, exposing to the world and introducing the wider public to this part of American history. Representing the comfort of the mid-century American lifestyle, Heller reminds the viewer of its charm and simplicity. The artist teaches the observer to pay attention to the world around, and, furthermore, makes him learn from it, in order to move forward.

All images copyright of Danny Heller.

You can view more work by Danny on his Instagram and website.

Article written by Katarina Petric

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