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At the NY Art Book Fair, a Robert Heinecken Book Bridges the Analog and Digital

Two pages of Lessons in Posing Subjects/Lingerie.TRIANGLE BOOKS AND THE ESTATE OF ROBERT HEINECKEN

Two pages of Heinecken’s Lessons in Posing Subjects/Lingerie.

COURTESY TRIANGLE BOOKS AND THE ESTATE OF ROBERT HEINECKEN

Tonight is the night! After a nearly yearlong wait, Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair returns to MoMA PS1, with an opening preview from 6 to 9 p.m. More than 300 exhibitors will share their wares. One highlight among many is Triangle Books, which will be unveiling a toothsome-sounding catalogue that accompanies a Robert Heinecken (1931–2006) show that just ended its run at the closely watched Brussels kunsthalle WIELS.

That show, which will travel to Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery and Kunsthalle Freiburg, brought together all of the works in Heinecken’s “Lessons in Posing Subjects” series from the early 1980s, for which the conceptual photographer took Polaroid shots of models that he had carefully cropped and posed, pairing those images with rye texts. For instance, below eight photos of sultry-looking women, this perfect description: “In posing the Teddy it is necessary to remember only one rule. Tilt the angle of the head to the subject’s right approximately 15–30 degrees from the implied axis of the spin.”

“Often I would go upstairs and have a look at the show, and I would see people reading the ‘Lessons’ for half an hour,” Devrim Bayar, the chief curator and head of the residency program at WEILS, said in a Skype interview yesterday. “So I really felt there was a need for a book.”

But reproducing the look of the original works was no easy task. “We really tried to reproduce the Polaroid affect,” Bayar told ARTnews. “We decided to silkscreen a varnish on top of each image, so they are shinier than the white background.”

Sounds labor intensive! “It was not labor intensive, but it was expensive,” she said. “What was labor intensive was the retouching of the images.” Indeed, the original works were produced in editions of 10, and the cheap Polaroid film has aged in the 30-plus years since it was shot, so the image in each edition looks ever so slightly different.

“It’s very tricky work, because the Polaroids are almost the same, but they’re not exactly the same,” Bayar said. Difficult, subtle decisions had to be made in the color-correcting process, figuring out how the images looked when Heinecken first made them, and how they should be presented today.

“When do we stop retouching the images?” Bayar said the book team asked themselves. “It’s a big responsibility. I’m very happy with the result. You cannot push the colors too much, or they become digital. You really have to take care and respect Heinecken’s technique.”

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