How are we to assess Heinecken’s work, with its complexity and its incredible profusion of operations (superimposition, compositing, decontextualizing, transposition, inversion, displacement, and random permutation)? Part of the answer may lie in what for many is the most confounding aspect of his art, its near-obsessive return to sex. It is libidinousness, perhaps, that characterizes not only Heinecken’s iconography but also his intense engagement with his mediums, the promiscuity of his practice and its messiness... in Heinecken’s work we confront sex, violence, and the body and its fragmentation and estrangements from itself.
.Matthew Biro, “Reality Effects: Matthew Biro on the Art of Robert Heinecken,” Artforum, October 2011
Robert Heinecken (b. 1931, Denver, CO) began his education at Riverside Junior College in Riverside, California (1949-1951), was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corp from 1953-1957, and went on to study art at the University of California, Los Angeles, earning a BA in 1959, and an MA in 1960. In 1964 he founded the graduate program for photography at UCLA, and retired from the institution in 1991. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of The Friends of Photography, and a chairman of the Society for Photographic Education. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship (1976), a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artists Grant (1977, 1981, 1986), and Polaroid Corporation grants to use 20×24 and 40×80 cameras (1984, 1985, 1988). He died on May 18, 2006.
Robert Heinecken, who is perhaps best known for his assemblages of found images from torn magazine pages and for photographs containing familiar media iconography, often redefining the role of the photographer and our perceptions of the medium. Trained in design, drawing, and printmaking, Heinecken’s signature work incorporates public images (from magazines, newspapers, and television) and his own darkroom activity, which alters the original interpretation of the images. Though Heinecken is rarely behind the lens of a camera, his process is faithfully photographic. Yet he is often discussed less in terms of photography and more in terms of conceptual art.
Since 1964, Heinecken has had over sixty solo shows internationally including: the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, Belgium (2014); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2014); the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, and a 35-year retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 1998. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the George Eastman House, Rochester; and the Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, CA.