Art Talk: The Artist is Present, but in the South Bronx?

Friday, August 02, 2013

Gramsci Monument at Forest Houses, a public housing complex in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx (Gisele Regatao)

Like it or not, art often comes with the artist these days.

Last July, Jay-Z performed his song "Picasso Baby" for six hours at a Chelsea gallery.  Actress Tilda Swinton could recently be found napping on display inside a glass box. And most New Yorkers remember Serbian artist Marina Abramovic's show at the Museum of Modern Art that had people sitting to stare at her.

Now, Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn is also present at his art installation. His Gramsci Monument is far from Manhattan's museums though. It's on the grounds of Forest Houses, a public housing complex in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx.

The piece is named after Antonio Gramsci, the late Italian political theorist and Marxist. It consists of a plywood structure that features rooms with an internet area, a library, an arts room, and even a cafe and a pond.

Art critic and WNYC contributor Deborah Solomon said the Gramsci Monument, which is open to the public until September 15th and free, is definitely worth a trip to The Bronx. "It's a thrillingly inclusive, daring piece that anybody who cares about the future of art should see," she said.

To listen to the whole interview with Solomon, with local residents, and with Hirschhorn, click on the audio link above.

And do you like it when the artist is present or do you think they only get on the way of the work? Leave your comment below.



Deborah Solomon
Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn
Gisele Regatao
Antonio Gramsci
Gisele Regatao
Gisele Regatao
Gisele Regatao
View of the bridge
Gisele Regatao
Gisele Regatao
Internet area
Gisele Regatao
Deborah Solomon in front of the radio studio

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Comments [7]

Frederick Hayes from NYC

II don't know that I would categorizes this work as performance art, maybe installation art and or Relational Aesthetics with Hirschhorn roll as more of a producer. It reminds me of when you first start out as an artist after graduate school full of energy and willing to exhibit your work anywhere even if you have to sit in the gallery for a few days because it is either a non-profit or artist run space and the owners cannot afford to take time off from their main sources of income. Performing as a "janitor" is almost like going unnoticed, but is that really a performance? When he is forced to step out from under the mask of "janitor", when someone ask him a question about the project, that is when the performance really starts. I think that if an artist gets in the way of the performance then one or the other has to go.

Aug. 02 2013 07:03 PM
rachel from nyc

2 things -
#1 - earlier I meant to write Hirschhorn's presence not Gramsci
#2 - To Ms. Solomon, I would say that "art deity" is part of the Marina experience, whereas Mr. Hirschhorn becomes an integral component creating a different sort of "present artist" experience. Both work.

Aug. 02 2013 11:44 AM
Deborah Solomon

Thanks for all your comments. Interesting to me that Hirschhorn manages to be on the premises of his Gramsci Monument without turning himself into the center of the piece. He tiptoes around the place as if he were a handyman tending to the weeds in the garden and the leaky roof. Marina Abramovic, on the other hand, commandeered the galleries of MOMA in an effort to become an art deity. He's more radical; she's more theatrical.

Aug. 02 2013 08:12 AM
rachel from nyc

With the rise of performance art, there is a fine line between a pop cultural happening and art with a capital "A" -
Anything that brings people together to have an experience is a good thing. What a great thing Gramsci has compiled - his presence, like the other exhibits you mention, only adds value.

Aug. 02 2013 07:52 AM
Romulo from NYC

When the artist is present it gives a piece with a point of view a human and personal dimension. Speaking with the artist you get to know his/her personality; this provides another dimension or perspective to the piece and can make the piece more approachable.

Aug. 02 2013 07:42 AM
Deborah Solomon

I agree; it is great to have Thomas Hirschhorn on the premises to answer questions and chat. You can reach the Gramsci Monument on either the the 2 or 5 trains -- it's the Prospect Avenue stop in the South Bronx.

Aug. 02 2013 07:36 AM
CAChin from JPN

Sounds like a interesting installation...
Also, a great idea to have the artist around to interact with the piece. I am sure those who aren't found of the work could start a debate and learn about monument. I hope the local community visit appreciate the artist intention.
How would a visitor get to this moment? Did I miss that part the audio?

Aug. 02 2013 07:01 AM

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