Robert Heinecken and the Art of Appropriation
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
344 pages, 178.00 x 254.00 x 38.00 mm, 90 color plates
- ISBN: 9781517904647
- Published: May 2022
The first comprehensive study of the artist Robert Heinecken and his critical views on the culture of mass media
This is the first book-length study dedicated to the artist Robert Heinecken, whose innovative photographic practices sought to interrogate how mass media imagery facilitated the construction of individual and collective identities. Appropriating, rephotographing, and layering pictures culled from newspapers, advertisements, pornography, and television, Heinecken recombined and transformed the ubiquitous images of mass culture to encourage viewers to critically reflect on their sense of self.
From the 1960s through the late 1990s, Heinecken’s controversial art continually challenged inherited ideas around consumerism, the facticity of reportage, and visual culture’s relationship to gender and identity politics. Embodying the evolution of contemporary art toward increasingly hybrid and conceptual approaches, his oeuvre includes examples of painting, sculpture, photomontage, performance, installation, time-based media, and artist’s books, all of which collectively exploit photography’s reproducibility to subvert society’s dominant ideologies and stereotypical modes of representation.
Author Matthew Biro presents an exhaustive look at Heinecken’s life and art, locating him within a lineage that encompasses the activities of the early twentieth-century avant-gardes and the postmodern strategies of the Pictures Generation artists. Assessing his career within the specific political and historical contexts from which he gleaned his material, and illustrated throughout with vibrant full-color reproductions of his art, this in-depth examination demonstrates Robert Heinecken’s significance as a key figure of twentieth-century art and an incisive commentator on modern life in America.
Introduction: Art, Photography, and the Consumption of Identity
1. Artist and Educator: Criticizing the American Family Ideal through 35mm Photography
2. Documents of Manufactured Experience: Appropriation and the Photogram in the 1960s
3. The Photographic Object: Heinecken’s Materialism
4. Magazine Work: American Disaster and Identity
5. Art, Pornography, Painting: Heinecken’s Relationship to Feminism
6. The Polaroid Experience: Instantaneous Photography and the Performance of Identity
7. Surrealism on TV: Ronald Reagan and the Newscasters
8. Appropriation in the 1980s and 1990s: History and the Body at the End of the Analog Era
Coda: Heinecken’s Significance
"With crystalline prose and impressively illustrated throughout, Robert Heinecken and the Art of Appropriation brings long overdue attention to one of the most innovative photographers of the twentieth century. Matthew Biro’s immaculate research and careful consideration of the different phases of Heinecken’s practice offer a most welcome recalibration of his many achievements and their reverberations throughout American culture at large."—James Nisbet, author of Second Site
"Matthew Biro’s book provides a thorough critical analysis of an artist who has been neglected for far too long. The inquiry, however, does far more than achieve this already important work of recuperation. By placing Heinecken within his context with such care, both by way of geography and time, Biro uses the artist to rewrite our understanding of American art from the 1920s through the 1990s."—Andrés Mario Zervigón, author of Photography and Germany