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Home » Go See: Thomas Hirschorn’s ‘Universal Gym’ at Barbara Gladstone, New York, through April 11th 2009

Go See: Thomas Hirschorn’s ‘Universal Gym’ at Barbara Gladstone, New York, through April 11th 2009

March 27th, 2009

Thomas Hirshhorn-Universal Gym-2009Universal Gym (2009) by Thomas Hirshhorn, via Barbara Gladstone Gallery

Currently on view at Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York is a new work by Thomas Hirshhorn. The artist is known for his sprawling installation works that refer to issues of critical theory, global politics, and consumerism.  Hirshhorn combines found imagery and texts with constructions made out of cardboard, foil, and packing tape while decorating them in a Do-it-Yourself manner to refer to the overload of visual images and information that we experience on a daily basis.

Gallery Press Release: Thomas Hirshhorn [Barbara Gladstone Gallery]
Artforum Critics’ Picks [Artforum]
Barbara Gladstone: Thomas Hirshhorn [Artnews]

Thomas Hirshhorn-Universal Gym-2009Universal Gym (2009) by Thomas Hirshhorn, via Barbara Gladstone Gallery

Hirshhorn converts the gallery space into a universal gym for which he recasts fitness equipment and anatomical models into an instrument for social critique. For modern man the gymnasium has come to represent a place for interaction, learning, and physical exercise. A space which epitomizes the desire for physical wellbeing and longevity, Hirshhorn uses the gymnasium to also contemplate communal notions of long life related to physical upkeep, discipline, and logic. “Universal gym is a space for exhaustion, for hanging on for staying upright, and staying in shape while the world falls apart,” says the artist defining the construction as a way to steer steadfast through life’s unpredictable changes.

Thomas Hirshhorn-Universal Gym-2009Universal Gym (2009) by Thomas Hirshhorn, via Barbara Gladstone Gallery

Around a dozen makeshift fitness machines cover the floor while cardboard mats and empty water bottles imply that visitors have just used the facility. There is also an ersatz shower, stockpiles of provisional weights, and several fans that also align the gallery walls. There is, however, a grim undertone found by the globes dangling from the ceiling resembling punching bags and the gigantic black-colored globe made from painted cardboard in the gymnasium’s center. Three mannequins wearing tracksuits and one life-size anatomical model stand inside individual cases all with a hole punched through their chest most likely referring to the selfishness that consumes human beings when focused merely on their own vanity.

Thomas Hirshhorn-Universal Gym-2009Universal Gym (2009) by Thomas Hirshhorn, via Barbara Gladstone Gallery

Thomas Hirshhorn was born in 1957 in Bern, Switzerland and now lives and works in Paris. His work has been shown at numerous solo exhibitions worldwide notably at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Art Institute of Chicago, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, and the Secession in Vienna. Hirshhorn has taken part in numerous international group exhibitions including Documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany, the “Heart of Darkness” at the Walker Art Center and most recently, “Life on Mars: the 55th Carnegie International.” He was the recipient of the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2000 and the Joseph Beuys-Preis in 2004.

Thomas Hirshhorn-Universal Gym-2009

Universal Gym (2009) by Thomas Hirshhorn, via Barbara Gladstone Gallery

-R.A. Proctor

One Response to “Go See: Thomas Hirschorn’s ‘Universal Gym’ at Barbara Gladstone, New York, through April 11th 2009”

  1. Ariel Says:

    Isn’t the reality-out-of-context exhibit getting too tired? I think they have lost their oomph. I hope to see something “different” soon even if on canvas.

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