Over the course of his more than forty-year career, Robert Heinecken tirelessly investigated the representational space of printed image and text, especially as it appeared in magazine advertising and pornography. Heinecken located individual artistic expression, vision and production within the context of greater societal communication, his background in printmaking and photography facilitating an ability to engage with mass media on its own terms. Heinecken’s “revised” and “compromised” magazines, color and black and white photograms and superimposed negative pieces addressed his sources through such means as incision, inversion, flipping, mirroring and printing through. Because so much of Heinecken’s output was camera-less, his output often mimicked not only the production techniques of mass media, but also the techniques of its dispersal.
Marshall McLuhan, a contemporary of Heinecken’s, wrote in 1964 that ad images work nonverbally and directly on the unconscious. Those who do not recognize this “have not the art to argue with pictures;” in short, they lack the ability to understand the function and purpose of the modern media environment. Heinecken’s art seems to be in line with McLuhan's description, especially with regard to the parallel mode of address in advertising and pornography that Heinecken explored. Heinecken synthesized the information disseminated by media culture—images of sex and beauty, money and violence—bringing them together in a quick visual thrust. Forthright enough to comment that sexuality was his "most developed" sense; Heinecken's art avoided the cold glaze of ironic distance, or an abjuration of personal culpability, further complicating the reading of his practice.
In addition to asking viewers to reconsider Heinecken, this exhibition posits affinities between Heinecken’s interests and methods and those of a number of contemporary artists working today. It can be hard to place Heinecken given the lapse of time, his self-adopted California outsider status and his view of himself as working within the confines of photography; nonetheless, Erik Frydenborg, Nicolás Guagnini, Wade Guyton, Leigh Ledare, Amanda Ross-Ho and Collier Schorr all contribute works to the exhibition that in one way or another create a conversation with Heinecken’s own examination of the subject matter and material content of media.
The Robert Heinecken works included in the exhibition include a complete group of his magazine pieces. Although not intended serially, the magazines exhibited at Cherry and Martin will present the practice in its entirety, encompassing at least one variant of all the magazines made by Heinecken from 1969-1971, picking up again in 1990, in 1993, and in 1999. Additionally, the exhibition will feature works from Heinecken's "Hite Hustler Beaver Hunt" series, his "Socio/Fashio Lingerie" series (both series are 1981), as well as color and black and white photograms from the 1960’s and 1980’s.
Erik Frydenborg will contribute several of his recent “captures,” photographic-based works in which the blank fields abutting classic female pin-up images serve as spaces for the construction of new images. Nicolás Guagnini will exhibit “Argentina Potencia,” a multi-part piece in which a single repeating image of a nude female figure is printed on Pinochet-era official press, guerilla press, artist magazines and artist manifestos. Wade Guyton will show one Epson DURABRrite inkjet-on-book page piece and two Epson DURABRrite inkjet-on-magazine page works. Leigh Ledare will show three diptychs from his series combining found images with intimate photographs of his ex-wife shot by both himself and her current husband at the same location on different weekends, as arranged by Ledare. Amanda Ross-Ho will show three scans of incised found craft book pages from her series of “Wall Hangings.” Collier Schorr will show a photographic collage, “Torso,” from her “Jens F” group, a series in which Schorr invites the viewer to witness the construction of photographic images, particularly in relation to self and identity.
In February of 2011, Cherry and Martin and Marc Selwyn Gallery will host simultaneous solo exhibitions investigating Heinecken’s work in detail. 2011 will also mark the publication of "Speaking in Tongues: The Art of Wallace Berman and Robert Heinecken," co-written by Claudia Bohn-Spector and Sam Mellon, with contributions by Carolyn Peter and Colin Westerbeck, and the corresponding exhibition at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. Cherry and Martin would like to thank all the artists in the exhibition, Luke Batten, the Robert Heinecken Estate, Gil Blank, Frederick Petzel Gallery, 303 Gallery and Green Naftali.
(Cherry and Martin archive)
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