This is the first retrospective of the groundbreaking work of Robert Heinecken since his death in 2006. Heinecken dedicated his life to making art and teaching, establishing the photography program at UCLA in 1964 and serving as a professor there until 1991. He came of age artistically in 1960s Los Angeles, where the burgeoning art scene and proximity to Hollywood provided fertile ground for experimentation. In this environment Heinecken—alongside peers making Pop art and Conceptual art—pushed the boundaries between mediums and between high and popular culture.
Heinecken described himself as a “para-photographer” because his work stood “beside” or “beyond” traditional notions of the medium. He extended photographic processes and materials into lithography, collage, photo-based painting and sculpture, and installation. Drawing on the countless pictures in magazines, books, pornography, television, and even consumer items such as TV dinners, Heinecken used found images to explore the manufacture of daily life by mass media and the relationship between the original and the copy, both in art and in our culture at large. Thriving on contradictions, friction, and disparity, his examination of American attitudes toward gender, sex, and violence was often humorous and always provocative.
This exhibition gathers over 150 works from throughout the artist’s remarkable career, many of them never seen before in New York—including the largest display to date of his altered magazines, which were the backbone of his art. Heinecken always celebrated photography’s limitless permutations and possibilities, and proposed alternative ideas about the medium—ideas that continue to resonate well into the 21st century.
The exhibition is organized by Eva Respini, Curator, with Drew Sawyer, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, Department of Photography.
Major support for the exhibition is provided by The William Randolph Hearst Endowment Fund and by The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
Additional funding is provided by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art and by the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund.
Special thanks to the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, which houses the Robert Heinecken Archive, and to The Robert Heinecken Trust, Chicago.