Exhibition preview: Robert Heinecken at Wiels

 Although Robert Heinecken never considered himself a photographer in the true sense of the term, his work was essentially a life-long exploration of how far an artist could stretch the notions of image making and still call it his own. Described as a paraphotographer, one who only very rarely actually used a camera, Heinecken was fascinated by the standardizing and banalising effects mass media had on photography. With re-appropriation a key aspect of his approach, the sexually charged and implicit world of the artist revealed a practice that owed as much to trial-and-error as it did to a deep sense of conviction in the power of learning (Heinecked was the founder of UCLA’s photography department). With its summer-long exhibition Robert Heinecken: Lessons in Posing Subjects, Wiels focuses on a defining period in the artist’s career, one where he exclusively used a Polaroid SX 70 camera and which produced some of his most iconic series such as Lessons in Posing Subjects (1981 – 1982) and He – She (1975 – 1979). The former, in which Heinecken juxtaposed self-penned witty wordplays with images found in mail order catalogues and magazines, includes a series of 41 panels shown in its entirety for the first time in over 20 years. In the latter, produced together with wife and photographer Joyce Neimanas, Heinecken reveals his more playful and explicit side, in one of the rare moments where he actually used a camera to shoot something original – himself. Here, we preview some of the works on show and, in the following days, will be publishing an interview with the show’s curator Devrim Bayar.

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Robert Heinecken: Lessons in Posing Subjects
16th May to 17th August 2014
wiels.org