Robert Heinecken's "Surrealism on TV" (1986) is one of the most important works of the second half of his career. Like many of Heinecken's pieces, it has not been seen in Europe. Revitalized interest in Heinecken's practice, including an upcoming touring solo exhibition beginning at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in March 2014, has led to a critical reassessment of his place in the history of American art. Heinecken plays a crucial and perhaps unique role in American art. His work links the found image in Surrealism with later methods of Appropriation. Heinecken had immediate familiarity with both movements: he met Man Ray personally and, according to sources, appeared in a group show curated by Richard Prince in the 1980s.
For the 2013 section of Art Feature, Cherry and Martin will install "Surrealism on TV" in its entirety. "Surrealism on TV" consists of projected 35mm slides, shot off the television by Heinecken. His images are almost exclusively of "late night" television programming, including: televangelists, cranks, ads for consumer products that cost "only $19.99!,” aerobics instructors, pets doing people things and consumers testing their mattresses. Throughout it all, images of the TV network newswoman - a favorite narrative foil for Heinecken - appear constantly, directing, maybe legitimizing, the madness.
"Surrealism on TV" is shown on three variable speed slide projectors. The variable speed of each individual projector introduces a chance-driven method. It is image slot machine of sorts in which the combination of images is never the same thing twice. "Surrealism on TV" has an organic relationship to previous works like Heinecken's "TV/Time Environment” (1970), an installation that he first exhibited in "Continuum" at the Downey Museum of Art (Downey, CA) and continued to refine in exhibitions throughout the 70s. "Surrealism on TV" also relates to the magazine works and other photographic pieces Heinecken made throughout his life and weaves together Heinecken's interests in both print and broadcast media.
Robert Heinecken's work was the subject of the solo exhibition, "Object Matter," at Cherry and Martin in 2011. Recent and upcoming group and two person exhibitions include: "The Photographic Object 1970" (Le Consortium, Dijon, France); "The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook" (Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY); "Sinister Pop" (The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY); "Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981" (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA); "Speaking in Tongues: Wallace Berman and Robert Heinecken, 1961-1976" (Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA; traveled to Center for Creative Photography, Tuscon, AZ); and "Photography into Sculpture/The Evolving Photographic Object" (Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles, CA). This last exhibition included works from curator Peter Bunnell's landmark 1970 exhibition, "Photography into Sculpture." The show was an official gallery exhibition in the Getty Museum's Los Angeles-wide initiative, "Pacific Standard Time," and won the 2011 AICA-USA prize for Best Show in an American Commercial Gallery Nationally.