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Art review: 'They Have Not the Art to Argue With Pictures' at Cherry and Martin

June 4, 2010 | 10:30 am
400.RH_CatherineBandBewitch_RAW “They Have Not the Art to Argue With Pictures” is a fantastic group exhibition that would be even better if it had only one artist in it. At Cherry and Martin Gallery, Robert Heinecken’s altered magazines are more than enough to introduce a new generation of viewers to his devious genius and to remind everyone else of just how far ahead of his times — and above the curve — Heinecken (1931-2006) was.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Heinecken turned Pop Art’s focus on the mass-produced imagery of the news and entertainment industries upside-down, inside out and around on itself. Picture a snake eating its own tail, with all the messy, painful deadliness that never appears in the tidy diagram of the ouroboros. This hints at the charge at the heart of Heinecken’s art, which is never pretty and always pointed, often vicious but never mean.

Four vitrines are packed with examples of all types of Heinecken’s reconfigured magazines. In some, he has used an offset lithograph process to print pornographic or horrific war photographs over every page of popular news magazines. In others, he has dissected hundreds of magazines, from every niche of the market, and re-bound their pages to create his own Frankensteinian hybrids.

400.RH_CatherineIDrewOn_RAW Information overload, and what it does to human consciousness, take visceral shape in Heinecken’s magazines. The same goes for the erosion of the border between news and entertainment. In Heinecken’s hands, viewers slide down the slippery slope toward a morass in which fact and fiction are indistinguishable and truth and falsehood bleed into each other.

In the 1980s, as if anticipating the Internet and the exponential intensification of our image-saturated lives, Heinecken began to cut small sections out of each page of each magazine he worked on. These cutouts give viewers keyhole peeks at upcoming pages as well as glimpses back at previous pages. With uncanny efficiency — Heinecken’s collages shatter the illusion of instantaneous gratification and point to ordinarily invisible connections among all aspects of the global world.

The works by the six other artists — Erik Frydenborg, Nicolas Guagnini, Wade Guyton, Leigh Ledare, Amanda Ross-Ho and Collier Schorr — share stylistic similarities with Heinecken. But they are too personal, timid and self-impressed to measure up to his urgent art, which thumbs its nose at all forms of privilege in order to get its message to the masses.

– David Pagel

Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 559-0100, through July 3. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.cherryandmartin.com

Images: Robert Heinecken's "Catherine Deneuve, B & Bewitch" (top) and "Catherine Deneuve, I Drew on My Photograph." Courtesy of Cherry and Martin.
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