Robert Heinecken: Lessons in Posing Subjects

Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool
Till 11th January 2015

Reviewed by Kiran Vegad

Have you been out in Liverpool recently? Dreadful, isn't it? Now, I realise this is how every old man begins, railing at youth and hoping that sufficient vitriol directed at the young will somehow shore up his infirmity or resurrect the past, but it’s entirely true. At some point in the past few years we've begun to embrace the repackaging of shite as gold. We cram hot dogs and triple cheeseburgers into our gaping maws and somehow forget to choke on either the price or the concept. We order ten pound cocktails and piss them out in identikit graffitied toilets, blue lights hiding our shame, while we wonder if this would ever really be authentic anywhere. We dine on the food of the condemned.

Appropriate, then, that Open Eye Gallery have brought the work of Robert Heinecken to the city. Heinecken takes the vacuity of catalogue models, fashion magazines and pornography and turns it in to something altogether more edifying, more nourishing. In Hustler Blind Beaver Hunt he prints caustic messages beneath polaroids of half-naked models, some hilarious, some hilariously disturbing. Although he has drawn criticism from certain quarters for his apparent misogyny it seems clear that this is no celebration of Flynt’s empire, the captions too caustic to be anything but damning. Similarly the treatment of male/ female relationships in He/She drips in sarcasm and Heinecken never allows us to forget that he is both dealing in and subverting objectification.

In a videoed 45 minute lecture also shown in the exhibition Heinecken describes himself as a paraphotographer; like a paramedic who “keeps people out of trouble until the real guys show up”. As it turns out, he’s needlessly self-effacing. In fact, it seems he’s exactly what Liverpool needs- someone to take our trash and turn it in to something worthwhile. Until then, there's nothing here but pulled pork and death.

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