Thomas Hirschhorn: Superficial Engagement
Barbara Gladstone Gallery, 515 W. 24th St. Closes 2/11.
Not only is Thomas Hirschhorn willing to handle loaded imagery, he enjoys hurling it against gallery walls, generating messy, exploding and potentially offensive installations. His latest creation, Superficial Engagement, contains hundreds of gruesome news photos, sloppily taped to cardboard panels and interspersed with news clippings, Persian carpets, mannequins and serene abstract drawings inspired by Emma Kunz. The impact of the news photos cannot be underestimated — some show bloody clumps that on closer inspection reveal themselves to be human heads, victims of unspecified bombings. The abstract drawings contrast sharply with these photos, suggesting at first a comparison between political art and art-for-art’s-sake, but Hirschhorn sees them as healing talismans to counteract the trauma of world events. The installation is meant to simultaneously alert the viewer to widespread violence and offer a soothing antidote. The heavy symbolism of each object in the show results in a dogmatic, somewhat shallow experience, but the horror of the news photos leaves a lasting impression.
Irreducible: Short Form Video
Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse. Closes 2/21.
The trek to the Bronx will probably deter all but the die-hard video art enthusiasts, but this carefully curated show rewards the dedicated. Most of the featured artists are young and emerging, though some, like Douglas Gordon, David Hammons, and Gillian Wearing, already have some laurels to rest on.
Video still from Douglas Gordon.
Since most of the videos are quite short, and focus on simple actions, they are unusually concise examples of the medium. A few of the videos touch on naughty subjects, such as Mads Lynnerup’s Untying a Shoe with an Erection and Douglas Gordon’s Blue, but my favorite was John Wood and Paul Harrison’s multi-monitor installation Hundredweight. Each monitor in this piece shows a blank studio from above, which a man quickly transforms using paint or string or furniture. With a few movements, he turns the room into an abstract composition so that the monitor’s screen resembles a painting. The monitors each show different transformations, and at rapid rates, so catching them all is like a child’s game.