Cover-girl collage


Although he rarely picked up a camera, artist Robert Heinecken helped expand the scope of contemporary photography during a four-decade career that ended with his death last year at age 74. Rather than create new images, he manipulated and transformed existing ones using lithography, etching, cutouts, and photo emulsion. While some of his works were whimsical or beautiful, many others became—as a new Smart Museum exhibit demonstrates—intentionally disturbing juxtapositions of pop culture, violence, and politics. At the height of the Vietnam War, for instance, Heinecken superimposed a photograph of a young Vietnamese soldier, grinning and hoisting two severed heads, over fashion-magazine ads. He overlaid magazine images of women in rope-lace skirts and a pitch for Isotoner’s slimming “bodysuit” with pictures of suggestively posed women in whips and thigh boots. His 1966-67 series “Are you Rea” combined images on both sides of magazine pages by using a light to photographically expose the front and back simultaneously.

In a letter to Chicago collector and photographer Luke Batten, included as part of the Smart’s exhibit, Heinecken explains that he combined images in ways that were “visually stimulating” and that seemed “to reveal ironic or significant cultural conditions.” His work is on display through March 11.


Photo: Robert Heinecken, Frost Tip, 1971, Newsprint (Glamour magazine page) with rubbing, black and white photograph. Smart Museum of Art.

January 3, 2007