Robert Heinecken is widley recognized for his alternative approaches and processes that challenged and expanded traditional notions of the photographic medium. Heinecken, the founder of UCLA’s photography program, rarely used a camera, instead drawing on appropriated imagery from magazines and newspapers, and employing techniques like lithography, etching, camera-less exposure and photo emulsion on canvas.
Heinecken’s conceptual approach drew from mass media like newspapers and magazines. In his photograms, Robert Heinecken projected light through a magazine page to superimpose images from both sides at once, exploiting random combinations to excavate cultural meaning and exposing the constructed nature of desire in advertising.
Heinecken grew up in Southern California and was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps before earning a master’s degree in art at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1960. In 1964, he founded the graduate photography program at UCLA, where he taught until 1991. Heinecken received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1976, and three NEA Individual Artist Grants (1977, 1981, 1986).
He has been the subject of over sixty one-person shows including a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2014, the Musèe d’art moderne et contemporain, Genève in 2013, the Hammer Museum in 2006, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 1999. His monographs include: Recto/Verso (Nazraeli Press, 2006), Robert Heinecken: A Material History (Center for Creative Photography, 2003), and Robert Heinecken: Photographist (Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 1999).