Robert Heinecken pushed the boundaries of the photographic medium, breaking through aesthetic and technical limitations of the genre. As the New York Times wrote in the artist’s 2006 obituary: “Instead of treating photographs as the autonomous creations of their makers, as did Ansel Adams and other postwar tastemakers, he viewed them as forms of cultural iconography that reflected the commercialism and venality of contemporary life. In this sense, he was a forerunner of appropriationist artists of the 1980’s like Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince, who borrowed and recontextualized existing photographic images culled from printed reproductions.”
Robert Heinecken received his BA (1959) and MFA (1960) from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1960 he was hired by U.C.L.A. and taught in the art department for the next 31 years, where he founded the department’s photography program (1964). Heinecken’s work was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago (2007) and a 35-year retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1999) that toured to the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art that same year.
In 2014, a retrospective of Robert Heinecken’s work will be on view at Museum of Modern Art, New York (March-June, 2014) and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (October-January, 2015).