Robert Heinecken Are You Rea?
Medium Photo lithographs
Photo Date 1966 Print Date 1968
Dimensions 11 x 8-1/2 in. (279 x 216 mm)
Photo Country United States (USA)
Photographer Country United States (USA)
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
Self-published, Los Angeles, 1968. In a limited edition of 500 signed and numbered copies. Large quarto. Stiff paper portfolio containing one-page introduction by Heinecken + one-page quotation from Andre Breton's writings + 25 photo-lithographic plates of 'photograms.
The series "Are You Rea" is perhaps Heinecken's most popular body of work. Its title comes from a headline text fragment in one member of the series, and was selected by Heinecken for the mirroring of letters in the words. Made in the late 1960s, at a time when the public was being bombarded by the media's definitions of beauty, race, and gender, Heinecken challenged the viewer to question the source and validity of these social stereotypes.
Early in his career, Heinecken began experimenting with photographs from appropriated magazine pages, carefully controlling light intensity and following the technique described above for the Recto/Verso pictures to make unified compositions from two sides of a single page. Unlike the later series, however, the process of Are You Rea's prints inverts the tones of the original images to create negative images in black-and-white. The effect reinforces the sensation that the images are familiar yet their meaning reversed. Where the magazines blindly push desire, Heinecken's images question it, investigate the duality of real circumstances and the unattainable standards we set In a simple juxtaposition, Heinecken draws us in and simultaneously repulses us. From the tangle of two scenes meshed together, the viewer extracts a clear perspective on the need to consume.
Robert Heinecken was born in Denver, Colorado on October 29, 1931. He began his education at Riverside Junior College in Riverside, CA (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, completing a BA (1959) and then an MA (1960). In 1964 he founded the graduate program for photography at UCLA, and retired from the institution in 1991. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artists Grant, and Polaroid Corporation grants.
Though Heinecken was 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. To put a name to Heinecken's unique combination of interests and technique, he was dubbed a "photographist" by philosopher and art critic Arthur C. Danto who described the responsibility of the modern artist as "creating art that functions in part as a philosophical reflection of its own nature."
His works are in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
He died on May 18, 2006.
(Most of the information above is from the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago.)