01/05/2016 - 28/02/2017
Are you Rea
Robert Heinecken (1931-2006) was Pat O’Neill’s teacher in graphic design at UCLA in 1961 and a potent influence on his student. O’Neill explains: ‘He undertook the radical project of liberating photography of the mechanical technique and sought to establish it as an art form in its own right. He was a maverick in that he welcomed transgression of the purity of the medium. We were encouraged to distort the technology, cook the negative, cut up the print, and even use its surface to paint upon.’ (Interview with John G. Hanhardt in Views from Lookout Mountain, p.195.)
In his work, Heinecken examined the material possibilities of the photographic medium. Rather than concentrating on the photographic image as the production solely of the camera, his focus was the interaction and impact of diverse techniques and formalism – often applied irreverently and humorously – on material from the popular media. Using collage, colour processing, experimental darkroom chemistry, Polaroid, silver gelatin, digital printing and lithography, among others, he initiated alternative methods for recording and reproducing images of objects.
Heinecken’s fascination with processing and transforming the same image in multiple ways is evident in his Are You Rea series. First taking photograms of newspapers and magazines, he made gelatin silver prints of them, and then used lithography to create the final edition. The artist’s aesthetic affinity with Dadaism and Surrealism is also made clear – the word ‘real’ in a magazine advertisement is shortened to ‘rea’ in the photogram and is pronounced ‘ray’ in the series title in reference to Man Ray’s ‘rayographs’. Demonstrating Heinecken’s view that pictures represent manufactured experience, the striking juxtapositions of text and images from advertisements reveal the role of subconscious suggestion in the mass media, the promotion of hyper-consumption of sex, food, trendy gadgets and material possessions, and the complicity in seemingly innocent and ordinary images.
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Robert Heinecken & Pat O'Neill, 2017, Installation view, 2017
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Robert Heinecken, 'Are you rea', 1964-1968, installation view
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Robert Heinecken, 'Film Strip #2', 1972