Robert Heinecken (b. 1931, Denver, CO)
Robert Heinecken was born in Denver, Colorado on October 29, 1931. He 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).
Robert Heinecken 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: Rhona Hoffmann Gallery, Chicago (2019); WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (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 Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; George Eastman House; and the Mills College Art Gallery, among others. He died on May 18, 2006.
Heinecken’s photo-based works destabilize the very definition of photography, and essentially redefine its perception as an artistic medium. ‘The photograph,’ he argued, ‘is not a picture of, but an object about something.’
-Eva Respini, “Not a Picture of, but an Object about Something,” Robert Heinecken: Object Matter, exh. cat. “For many of us who were students of art and photography in the 1970s, Robert
1931 Born in Denver, CO
1954 Receives Pilot Wings as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marines
1959 Receives Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA, Los Angeles
1960 Receives Master of Arts degree from UCLA, appointed instructor of drawing and printmaking
1963 Founds the photography program at UCLA, one of the first at a university in the United States
1969 Solo exhibition 20:6 at Occidental College, Los Angeles, where he meets photographer Ansel Adams
1970 First solo show in New York at Witkin Gallery
Included in group show Photography into Sculpture at the Museum
of Modern Art, New York
1971 Places altered magazines in newsstands
1975 Receives a Guggenheim Fellowship
1976 A major midcareer retrospective is organized by James Enyeart and circulated by the George Eastman House
1977 Receives National Endowment for the Arts Photographers Fellowship
1981 Archive established at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, in Tucson
1985 Curates Celebrating Two Decades: Recent Work by UCLA/MFA for the Wight Art Gallery at UCLA
1988 Receives grant from Polaroid to work with a 40-by-80 inch camera at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston
1991 Named professor emeritus of the department of art at UCLA
1997 The Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan acquires the Robert Heinecken Collection
1999 Curator Lynne Warren at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago organizes a major retrospective, which travels to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
2007 Memorial exhibition Robert Heinecken, 1932-2006: Sex and Food on display at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago
2011 Solo exhibition entitled Robert Heinecken: Copywork held at Petzel Gallery, New York
2014 Solo exhibition Robert Heinecken: Object Matter on display at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; traveled to Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
2016 Solo exhibition Robert Heinecken at Petzel Gallery, New York
Installation view, Photography into Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970
Installation view, I Am Involved in Learning to Perceive and Use Light, Petzel Gallery, New York, 2014
Installation view, Robert Heinecken: Object Matter, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014