Walther König; Dia Art Foundation, July 2015. 464p. ill. ISBN 9783863356118 (pbk.), $55.00.
Reviewed November 2015
Lindsey Reno, Acquisitions Librarian/Subject Specialist for Fine Arts, Film, Theater, and Music, University of New Orleans, Earl K. Long Library, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Hirschhorn: Gramsci Monument is a monograph that documents and describes the Gramsci Monument, which was designed by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschorn in 2013. It was the final installment in the artist's series of outdoor works, built to memorialize authors whose work was important to him. This last project was built to honor Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), an Italian Marxist writing in political theory and who wrote prolifically while imprisoned. The monument was built at Forest Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development in the Bronx, New York, and was actually constructed by residents from the development.
The volume photographically and verbally outlines Hirschhorn's decision-making process for the location, including maps and photographs of many New York City housing developments. The monument was a large and sprawling structure with various rooms built mostly out of plywood, much of which was spray-painted. It included such things as a performance stage, a library, and a snack bar. There were quotes from Gramsci spray-painted throughout the structure. It was the artist's intention "to establish a definition of monument, to provoke encounters, to create an event, and to think Gramsci today."
The monograph is profusely illustrated and photographically documents every moment of the project, from beginning to end. The illustrations outline the monument in its entirety, including the processes of planning, building, holding events, and dismantling. While the volume has more images than text, it features a rich variety of essays written by a number of individuals, including scholars, artists, writers, residents of Forest Houses, and the curator of the project, as well as essays, and an artist's statement, written by Hirschhorn. Some of the essays also include interviews and poetry.
There were many events at the monument and the book includes a schedule of those events. The front and back covers list names of those persons who were involved with the project. The essays and the images in the book are divided among sections that construct a timeline and a conceptual framework for the artist's work and the activities of those involved. The monograph is a snapshot and an archive of an intentionally ephemeral monument. The artist's intention with this volume was to "...make a reference-catalog about the difficulty, the complexity, and the beauty of a work of Art in Public Space." Thomas Hirschhorn: Gramsci Monument would be invaluable for studio art and art history students alike, working and studying in the areas of public art and the social aspects of art at both the undergraduate and graduate level.