The Recto/Verso photograms were made without the use of camera or film. A single page from a mass-circulation magazine was placed in direct contact with color photographic paper and exposed to light. The resulting image superimposes the visual and verbal information from the front and back of the magazine page. No collage, manipulation, or other handwork was employed.

Recto/Verso was published by Landweber/Artists in 1989 in an edition of fifty plus ten artist's proof sets. The portfolio is composed of twelve original 11"x14" Cibachrome photograms, signed by the artist and presented in 16"x20" museum-board mats. The prints are boxed in a hand-made, archival-quality case that also contains a vintage, numbered copy from the original edition of Heinecken's 1968 Are You Rea portfolio of twenty-five 10"x13" lithographs.

Twelve writers were each asked to address one of the Recto/Verso photograms. Their texts are printed on document-grade vellum slipsheets that overlay the prints. Alex Sweetman was invited to write a new introduction to Heinecken's Are You Rea portfolio, and his text is included with the lithographs. The writers include:

Claire Peeps
Lynn McLanahan Herbert
Susie Cohen
Irene Borger
Van Deren Coke
Joyce Fernandes
Anne Tucker
A. Grundberg & J. Scully
Bill Jay
Mark Johnstone
A.D. Coleman
James Enyeart
Alex Sweetman


Recto/Verso #10
Click the image to see it larger.
Contribution by Mark Johnstone, Los Angeles CA

"You and 11 other respected writers/critics/curators familiar with my ideas are receiving this invitation to contribute and participate in the project. I am requesting that each person write a text to accompany one of the prints in the published portfolio… No assumptions are made about what length or form your writing might take. It could be an analysis, a subjective response, a critique, a quote from Proust, or whatever. Its tangent could be psychologic, esthetic, cultural, formal, symbolic, etc., and hopefully direct, useful input for all of us… I am excited about this particular proposition as written introduction because it relates directly to the random and uncertain way in which these images are formed, found, and made tangible."

— Letter from R.H. to M.J., 8 March, 1988

On 29 April, 1998, I checked out the only two available books of collected poems by Charles Bukowski at the City of Inglewood Public Library. The following process then commenced, involving approximately one hour and forty-six minutes:

In my office, I thumbed through both books and marked three poems that were Bukowski's verbal descriptions of involvement with or observation about women. These three poems (girl in a miniskirt reading the bible outside my window, ariel, and for marilyn m.) were retyped in my studio-office on a computer word processor. The retyped copies were then scissored into single lines and thoroughly mixed up. The reassembled poem is a product of arbitrarily drawing out these lines.

the lightest of tans is that cloth
she twists this way and that,
above the simplicity
she is reading about God
your sure body lit candles for men
Sunday. I am eating a
letters unopened
and now your night is darker
and as the worms pant for your bones,
target of vanilla tears
and smile.
like a flower dried and thrown away,
to tyrants and heroes and ants
there is no escaping her being
there is no desire to…
she is dark, she is dark
far from Paris
we wait, child, child, child,
I am God.
large brown eyes look up from the Bible
that she cannot hear
my radio is playing symphonic music
and for this I say: good
dogs pissing in the street…
of Eastern descent,
have failed to agree with Life.
quite well.
oh my god, oh my dear god
in some slimy bathroom
our feet hanging down
reading the Bible…
she is dark
than the candle's reach
and it's a mini-suit, I suppose,
I raise my drink a full minute
Bible, and as she reads
and it is not kind
that we should end up
long gold earrings;
I would so like to tell you
telephone ringing,
she is doing a slow rhythmic dance
we forget, we remember,
the cloth hugs her body,
some type of small victory,
her legs keep moving, moving,
far from thighs that care,
greater men that I
on dark nights,
and frogs,
on the end of a rope
long young legs warm in the sun…
and we will forget you, somewhat,
but real bodies are nearer
Orthodox to the
vicious, intelligent, endearing,
but her movements coincide exactly
slipping keenly into bright ashes
then down. a small red and black
grapefruit. church is over at the Russian
2 gold bracelets on each arm,
I wish you could have met my brother, Marty:
to the rhythms of the
of stained tile
and let us grieve no more;
still, you brought us something,
that this happens to bears and elephants


— Mark Johnstone


Recto/Verso #11
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  Recto/Verso #11
Contribution by A.D. Coleman, New York NY (a review of Heinecken's work written previously and photogrammed by Mr. Coleman)


— A.D. Coleman


Recto/Verso #12
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  Recto/Verso #12
Comments by James Enyeart, Tucson AZ

Contiguous imagery in an artist's work is the imagination's imitation of the mind's working process. It is impossible to imagine thinking one thought at a time or completing a thought without the overlay of another. And what about sensory signals and memory? It is impossible to conceive of imagination without contiguous imagery.

Almost always, when each set of elements becomes synthesized
In reality, each reader reads only what is already within
into a completed piece, other more interesting configurational
What difference is there between what you find and what you
alternatives suggest themselves. I recognize this phenomenon as
himself. The book is only a sort of optical instrument which
part of the evolution of artistic process, but become anxious
make? You have to make it to find it. You have to find it to
when I consider this assumption in relation to the stationary
the writer offers to the reader to enable the latter to discover
character of the book and the impossibility of a continuing
make it. You only find things that you already have in your mind.
alternative form for it or for subsequent generations of it.
in himself what he would not have found but for the aid of the book.

                                      Robert Heinecken
                                      Marcel Proust
                                      Frederich Sommer


— James Enyeart


From Are You Rea portfolio
Click images to enlarge.
  Are You a Photograph or Are You Rea?
Comments by Alex Sweetman from a new introduction to Heinecken's Are You Rea portfolio of 25 lithographs, included with Recto/Verso
I first saw Are You Rea in 1972 when it arrived in Rochester at a little photobook store called Light Impressions — a storefront that seemed about 4×8 feet with a counter and a small exhibition area with room for a half dozen prints to hang in a row above a display rack containing the novelty items we called photobooks. Among the inventory at the time: Les Krims' little portfolios; Lustrum Press' greatest hits; the Canadian magazine Image Nation; mostly softcover fun, self-published stuff.

As that time, mail-order book sales were the main thrust of Light Impressions' business, and their hope was to develop a mailing list that would allow them to open up a vast market for what we all felt was going to be a massive revolution in photobook publishing as well as a large revolution in art. (We may note that a revolution has occurred, but it is not the one we had expected). It is hard to imagine where else a publication such as Are You Rea might have appeared, and at first glance I embraced it like a co-conspirator.

Are You Rea was not a book at all, but more of a "guerilla" portfolio, a "multiple" (as cheap artists' editions were sometimes called). It certainly was something, but what…? A bunch of prints? pages? photograms? page-o-prints? magazine-o-grams? Heineckenographs? If it had a model at all, it was one of the Institute of Design portfolios which had been very experimental, printed in various ways with a variety of materials. The ID portfolios were mostly photographic, very modest productions designed for the people who made them, which was a good idea because no one else was interested. "Photography" was what one saw at its best in Life magazine, at its worst in one's own family album. Even the photographs of Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, included in the ID portfolios, had no commercial value. Although 1970 is usually regarded as a turning point for photography; after some conspicuous, lively auctions and a range of other activities, a market suddenly showed up.

Clearly, whatever else Are You Rea may have been, it was also the result of a printmaking process: photo offset; ink on paper. Inexpensive and accessible, photo-offset lithography could allow the small press or self-publisher to get out work that otherwise could not have been commercially justified. Contrary to modern assumptions, desktop publishing really began with the liberation of printing; even mimeograph is desktop publishing, isn't it? And wasn't the 1947 Stieglitz memorial portfolio also a pack of cheap reproductions, never to be confused with the photographer's original fine prints? Are You Rea was a portfolio, and it was cheap, so I bought it.

Thus did I meet up with this curious and distinctive little portfolio, the diminutive size of which gives no indication of its status as a first-rate cultural event. It immediately fell into place with what I already knew about Heinecken and his art since I had met him two years earlier at a workshop at the Center of the Eye in Aspen, Colorado. I had hung a show of his work at a gallery there and remember several things: 1) that Heinecken had hair longer than my own, indicating a seriousness of counter-cultural stance over a comparatively longer period of time; 2) that he was the guy who went on an outing to a Minor White shrine just outside of Aspen, called The Grottos, armed not with a Kodak but with a Kodak girl — a full size, cardboard representation of, in this case, a youthful and scantily clad Cybill Shepherd that could be placed strategically within what was otherwise only a picturesque landscape; 3) that the colors of pork chop printed on (allegedly black-and-white) printing-out paper were simply not be be believed.

Heinecken is a guerilla artist inspired more by the surrealism of Andre Breton than the politics of Karl Marx. Take, for example, his surrealist joke of altering a magazine and then putting it back on the magazine rack. As a guerilla "attack," this is pretty mild stuff (we imagine John or Jane Doe's shock and smile). As art it is a much stronger assault because it attacks sensibility. While the Vietnam war was grinding on under Nixon's ironic peace initiative, I remember an extended, day-long debate on another topic with graduate students, let by an important critic, which was not surprisingly eclipsed by one of Heinecken's magazine pages recently arrived by mail: a Revlon beauty overprinted with a smiling young soldier proudly displaying two severed heads; a sense of being on fire, "signaling through the flames," as Artaud put it; the contradiction of American-sponsored violence and the glossy magazine landscape of feminine beauty, all nicely sexy and so-o-o delicious and so very expensive. Similarly, if one expects to see a photograph when looking at Are You Rea, the simultaneous overlay of two images defeats the expectation of seeing with the eye and shocks one into seeing instead with the mind. We perceive a superficial substrate, the surface of the paper, a thin stratum shared by the images on either side of the page. Deprived of a camera's "view," we are nonetheless asked to "see," to answer the question: "Are you rea_? (fill in the blank).

It is an obvious truism that any page of any magazine can stand for the totality of this culture because every page is, literally, a piece of the culture. It is not of the culture of about the culture, but is the culture itself. Pornography is not only something to be found in the old man's locked desk, brought out for a frolic in fantasyland, but is readily available in fact and in spirit, a key indicator of culturally sanctioned behaviors. Pornography, and the prostitution it implies, addresses the culture's total representation of women in commercial media and the limited range of acknowledgeable possibilities within sexual relationships. Heinecken deals with such charged material on a physical level, both in regard to his own body's response to a latent pornographic subject and by the use of actual, ink-on-paper magazine pages as original negatives.

Heinecken has always seen what he was doing as art: not knowledge; not truth or politics; not anything else but art. Because these are offset lithographs of photograms made from lithographs of photographs, I found myself more interested in the idea underlying the gesture of their making than in their delicacy of tone, the quality of their craft, or even the pictures themselves. The pictorial structure was photographic but cameraless which, as it seemed to Moholy Nagy, was a more fundamental, hence more direct, way of working, of getting to know one's materials so one could, in good Bauhaus fashion, begin the work with and through and in terms of the materials themselves.

Are You Rea is printed but is not comprised of "prints," yet it is an original edition — not reproductions. Its pictures are not carefully crafted objects that call attention to their own physicality but are the things themselves, and that is how they call attention to their making, their idea, because their materiality is, in a sense, nothing as compared to the carefully crafted silver-gelatin prints of the high West Coast tradition of Weston, Adams, and White. It was precisely such an assault on the artful photographic print-making tradition that was the point of a cheap offset edition: an anti-elitist, democratic art of action; a paroy of the deluxe-edition portfolios of the past; a counter-cultural thrust away from the unique (and expensive) to the mass-printed "multiple." (Who could have dreamed that the project would be revisited for precisely opposite reasons only two decades later? But who could have begun to imagine what two decades would and wouldn't bring to art and photography and to Robert Heinecken).

My reading of Are You Rea was from a viewpoint increasingly critical about the whole notion of documentary photography, that the photograph has a privileged relationship to the real, especially the "real" of social change. Heinecken was against photojournalism and the conventions of documentary photography as he was against the Newhall-endorsed, West Coast, craft-based tradition of Weston and Adams. His playing field was in the ball game of conceptual art, grounded in the minor league of photography (sequed into printmaking), with major-league ambition like some other West Coast players (Baldessari, Huebler, Irwin, Kaprow, Ruscha, etc.).

What I got, I think, was this: I saw the gesture and absorbed it and worked with it immediately. In these photograms of odd pages from who knows what source, I hardly even looked at the "pictures" in any sense of connoisseurship or even with any interest in a formal, physical, surface analysis. I understood the portfolio in a glance; it was as if made for me. I knew exactly what it was: it freed me to work. And that was a great gift.


— Alex Sweetman

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