Looking at several interesting art books

Robert Heinecken: Object Matter (Museum of Modern Art), by Eve Respini is the catalog of a retrospective exhibition currently on view at MoMA in New York (through June 22) which will also travel to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles where it will be shown from Oct. 5 of this year through January 2015.

Covering four decades of Heinecken’s practice, the show and catalog amply document the artist’s “photographic” works. Heinecken described himself as a para-photographer, because his unconventional works stood apart from usual photographic practices.

He rarely used a camera to take pictures. Instead he collected and culled images from magazines and then re-assembled them, often using the found materials as “negatives” to produce photographic prints which he then used in collages and assemblages. He also created “facsimiles” of various magazines, often returning them to mass circulation by placing back on newsstands.

It is the first comprehensive overview of an overlooked artist whose works had a profound effect on the a subsequent generation of artists.

“The Dark Galleries: A Museum Guide to Painted Portraits in Film Noir, Gothic Melodramas and Ghost Stories of the 1940s and 1950s” (Aramer) by Stephen Jacobs and Lisa Colpaert is exactly what its subtitle suggests. It’s a fascinating tour of these often overlooked “background” objects in movies.

This imaginary museum gathers images from a host of films in which a painted portrait plays an important role in the plot. There’s more than a hundred entries on the cinematic and aesthetics of noir and gothic painted portraits. There’s also entire sections on paintings that are used to conceal safes and modern art in the homes of cinematic criminals where Picasso is featured prominently.

“Ugly: The Aesthetics of Everything” (Overlook) by Stephen Bayley is an attempt on the part of the author to try and define what is “ugly.” Drawing upon centuries of art, design and popular culture, Bayley’s visual survey ranges from the World’s Ugliest Dog contest to Soviet-era architecture and Hitler’s exhibition of what he called Degenerate Art—the works of many twentieth century modern masters.

Along the way we get visual essay on mountains, who public perception of them morphed from things to be avoided at all costs to objects of sublime beauty; the relationship between tattoos and crime; an overview of freeways and urban sprawl; and the worlds of fine, and not so fine, art.

Bayley, whose whimsical tongue is often firmly planted in his cheek, has compiled a witty essay on how things look from the B-52 graveyard in the California Desert and Hieronymus Bosch to ketchup bottles, the 1954 Porsche, bicycles, condoms, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” Andy Warhol and those trashy troll dolls.

Kirk Robertson covers the arts for LVN.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment