Published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Edited by Eva Respini. Text by Jennifer Jae Gutierrez.
Robert Heinecken was a pioneer in the postwar Los Angeles art scene who described himself as a para-photographer because his work stood "beside" or "beyond" traditional ideas of the medium. Published in conjunction with the first museum exhibition of the artist’s work since his death in 2006, this publication covers four decades of his remarkable and unique practice, from the early 1960s through the late 1990s, with special emphasis on his early experiments with technique and materiality. Culling images from newspapers, magazine advertisements and television, Heinecken recontextualized them through collage and assemblage, double-sided photograms, photolithography and re-photography. Although he was rarely behind the lens of a camera, his photo-based works question the nature of photography and radically redefine the perception of it as an artistic medium. As the most comprehensive survey of Heinecken’s oeuvre, this book sets his work in the context of twentieth-century history of photographic experimentation and conceptual art. An illustrated essay by conservator Jennifer Jae Gutierrez about the artist’s experimental techniques, which ranged from photograms to photolithography to collage, contributes to the sparse scholarship on Heinecken’s working methods.
Robert Heinecken was born in 1931 in Denver, Colorado and in 1942 his family relocated to Riverside, California. After serving in the US Marine Corp, he earned a BA in 1959 from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he continued his studies, specializing in printmaking and graduating with an MFA in 1960. He founded the graduate program for photography at UCLA in 1964, where he taught until 1991. Heinecken died at age 74 in 2006 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Eva Respini is the Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Prior to that she was Curator at The Museum of Modern Art.
Jennifer Jae Gutierrez is the Arthur J. Bell Senior Photograph Conservator at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Recto/Verso is the latest attempt to grasp the magnitude of the monumental archive of photograms that Robert Heinecken created during the past 40 years. In this current sampling, comprised of work from his own archive, Heinecken offers a look back at the decade of the 1980s, where decadence and narcissism inhabit the same space as spirituality and family values. Though the patinas of these color photograms speak of that generation, their revelations are contemporary in their incisiveness. In looking at the history of the photogram, beginning with Henry Fox Talbot’s ‘photogenic drawings’ and Man Ray’s ‘Rayographs’, Heinecken must be viewed as its most rebellious practitioner – unflinching, enigmatic and alert. Robert Heinecken’s work has been widely exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia, and is included in many major collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; LA County Museum of Art; and the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson. Recto/Verso is printed in a first edition of 1,000 casebound copies, with an introduction by Rod Slemmons, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.
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