Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Robert Heinecken, Object Matter @ MOMA

Well, truth be told, I am a white male, so I might be the wrong person to write this, but I didn’t find the Heinecken show sexist like the Times and the handful of people I asked about the show before seeing it. Now, it could be that I have a habit of projecting my own liberal filter onto people I like. Or maybe collaging, cutting up, or superposing naked women from porn could be seen as misogynist or reductive, or even violent towards women. But from the get go, I thought his work was a social critique of the place women had in popular culture of the 60’s. Where no matter how successful a woman was, a large portion of the world would see her only as a sexual object whose real worth was in procreating and keeping herself attractive to better her chances of procreating. For instance, the magazine ads photographed so both sides of the page are visible create a dystopian visual of pseudo oral sex and consumerism. Or the cross shaped collection of images with an idyllic girl surrounded by images of dolls seemed like work more about the pressures put on women by society than an act of anger at women. The interspersing of portrayals of women in magazines with women in porn may be an overstating of the argument about the general sexualization of women in media, but again not anti-women. But it’s hard not to credit the man with taking on the boom of vernacular images as subject matter at the same time as Martha Rosler and a decade before Richard Prince. I am going to stop defending my fellow white males in a second, but I think that the work presents a level of enjoyable subtlety that unfortunately opens it up to being seen as misogynistic instead of a societal critique. But that subtly makes the work more exciting, than say, Martha Rosler’s much more didactic assemblages.

Through Sep. 7th


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