Saturday, January 24, 2015

Robert Heinecken - "Object Matter" at the Hammer Museum

The Hammer Museum is always a mandatory visit in LA especially if one of the key exhibitions is the original "Artist Who Uses Photography" (or one of my biggest inspirations in the sculptural photography department). Ultimately, Heinecken referred to himself as a "paraphotographer" as he combined the photograph with many mediums, a common practice for artists in the 1960s.

Robert Heinecken, Are You Rea Installation

In his essay, "Reality Effects," Matthew Biro writes: "In 1968, Robert Heinecken released one of the signal works of his career: Are You Rea, a portfolio of twenty-five grainy, ghostly, tonally reversed photograms taken from the pages of popular magazines. His introductory text leaves no doubt as to why he is today considered one of the most prescient forerunners of appropriation. Disclosing his debt to Surrealist theory, he professes his interest in “the multiplicity of meanings inherent in aleatory ideas and images” and declares that “these pictures do not represent first hand experiences, but are related to the perhaps more socially important manufactured experiences which are being created daily by the mass media.”

Heinecken's guerrilla interventions displayed as if they were in a newsstand. He once said: “I sometimes visualize myself as a bizarre guerrilla, investing in a kind of humorous warfare in which a series of minimal, direct, invented acts result in a maximum extrinsic effect, but without consistent rationale.”

Robert Heinecken, Fractured Figure Sections, 1967

The Hammer's installation of several of the "figure sections." [enter many ideas for future display.]

Robert Heinecken, Surrealism on TV, 1986 [three of 216 projected slides = timing is everything]

One of the highlights of this exhibition was seeing a singular concept (the ironic combination of imagery from the media) materialize through several methods (slides, photograms of magazine pages, lithography, and so on). This was the first time I had witnessed one of his slide shows and it was memorizing/humorous (particularly when animal and people comparisons were projected).

Robert Heinecken, TV Dinner #10, 1971 [This is very similar to the one I saw repeatedly while working at the Center for Creative Photography. I was surprised the photo paper has been preserved this long.]

Robert Heinecken, Vanishing Photograph (Krims/Doubleday)

I had long heard about the "vanishing photographs" and to see one gradually changing color and disappearing was gratifying. I witnessed a part of the process and was thrilled to see it displayed in full light rather than hidden behind a cloth, much like a daguerreotype or other light sensitive image would have been shown (or hidden) in a contemporary museum.

There were so many other works I wish were included in Object Matter but I know this was not a posthumous retrospective.

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