San Francisco

Experimental Photomontage at Robert Koch Gallery

As part of our ongoing partnership with Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Robert Heinecken and Edmund Teske’s work in experimental photomontage at Robert Koch Gallery. Author Genevieve Quick analyzes the artists’ use of appropriation and their take on gender and mass media. She notes, “…there’s always more to the message than what’s on display.” This article was originally published in May 2012.

Robert Heinecken. From the portfolio Recto/Verso, 1989; Cibachrome (dye destruction) photogram; 11 x 14 in. Image courtesy of Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco.

Robert Heinecken and Edmund Teske: Experimental Photomontage at Robert Koch Gallery showcases two distinct voices in contemporary American photography that used similar processes to very different ends. Heinecken’s bold photograms and lithographs—composed of imagery and text from advertisements, soft-core porn magazines, and other printed matter—reflect the artist as an appropriator who intentionally mirrors the cultural conditions in which the work is produced. In contrast, Teske’s montages of people and places, sourced from his own negatives along with found postcards and re-photographed images, suggest a more Romantic view of the artist as a privileged communicator of a decidedly personal perspective.

Heinecken’s sexually suggestive work offers a troubling reflection of the representation of women in mass media. Recto/Verso (1989) is a portfolio of color prints Heinecken made by directly exposing backlit magazine pages to photographic paper, in lieu of a negative, resulting in a composite of both sides of the original printed page. While magazine readers would see the images sequentially as they turn the pages, Heinecken’s photograms fuse them into single pictures. In one of the most charged photograms in the series, the profile of a woman drinking from a phallic bottle is superimposed on an image of a woman biting on a strand of pearls. Heinecken makes explicit the casual sexism embedded in the images created by advertising firms and their clients by creating a before-and-after narrative of fellatio, visually punning on the double meanings of the bottle and the pearl necklace.

Read the full article here.