The Robert Koch Gallery is pleased to present Robert Heinecken and Edmund Teske: Experimental Photomontage, an exhibition pairing these innovative photographers together for the first time. Both teachers in the University of California, Los Angeles’s influential photography program during the 1960s, Teske and Heinecken are known for their alternative approaches and processes that challenged and expanded traditional notions of the medium.
Heinecken, the founder of UCLA’s photography program, rarely used a camera, instead drawing on appropriated imagery from magazines and newspapers, and treating them to techniques like lithography, etching, camera-less exposure and photo emulsion on canvas. Teske, who began creating composite images in the mid-1930s, was a popular figure in 1960s counterculture in LA, running in circles that included Jim Morrison and filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Though Teske worked in relative obscurity during his lifetime, his persistent innovation and dedication to his own lyrical path had a profound impact on a generation of younger photographers.
Teske and Heinecken first met in the 1950s when Teske was modeling for a figure drawing class at UCLA, where Heinecken was an undergraduate. Later as colleagues, these men shared a friendship that fueled their distinct creative approaches. Heinecken referred to Teske as “a spiritual mentor,” saying Teske “allowed me to see photography as something larger and more expansive than what I thought it was. I was struck by the idea that the photograph could be manipulated and superimposed with other images. It could be poetic and not limited to reality.” Teske in turn, credits Heinecken with supporting his career at many junctures, including inviting him to join the UCLA faculty as a visiting professor from 1965-70.
The exhibition will feature two of Heinecken’s complete portfolios—Are you Rea (1968) and Recto/Verso, published by Landweber/Artists (1989)—alongside an overview of Teske’s innovative duo-tones, solarizations, and unique variants. Though both explore the terrain of composite imagery, Teske used personal source material, such as postcards and images of friends and family, and used darkroom alchemy, to explore the expressive and emotional potential of the medium, while Heinecken’s more analytic approach drew from mass media like newspapers and magazines. In the photograms on view, Heinecken projected light through a magazine page to superimpose images from both sides at once. Teske’s carefully composed images are imbued with romantic and spiritual overtones, while Heinecken exploits random combinations to excavate cultural meaning, and expose the constructedness of desire in advertising.
Robert Heinecken (1931-2006) 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 Contemporary Art, Chicago in 1998. His monographs include: Robert Heinecken: A Material History (Center for Creative Photography, 2003), Recto/Verso (Nazraeli Press, 2006), and Robert Heinecken: Photographist (Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 1999).
A self-taught artist, Edmund Teske (1911-1996) worked for a commercial photography studio in Chicago in the 1930s. Over the years he sought out and met Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Moholy-Nagy and many other members of the Bauhaus/School of Design. Attracted by Hollywood, in 1943 Teske moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a performer and photographer before joining the UCLA faculty in 1965 at Heinecken’s invitation. Teske was awarded a NEA Fellowship in 1975, and honored with a solo exhibition at the Getty Museum in 1993, and a major retrospective there in 2004. Monographs of Teske’s work include Spirit into Matter: The Photographs of Edmund Teske (Getty, 2004), Being and Becoming: Photographs by Edmund Teske (Getty, 1993), and Images from Within: The Photographs of Edmund Teske (Friends of Photography, 1980).