Critics’ Picks

View of “Thomas Hirschhorn: Behind Facelessness,” 2017.


Thomas Hirschhorn

Alfonso Artiaco
Piazzetta Nilo 7
April 8 - May 27

Four years have passed since Thomas Hirschhorn’s last show at this gallery, which included a monumental group of sculptures hanging from the ceiling. For “Behind Facelessness,” the artist has returned to Naples with a work in progress, “Pixel-Collage,” 2016–, twenty-two photo-collages of varying dimensions that employ Dadaist collage techniques. Hirschhorn hybridizes images from heterogeneous contexts, from pictures extrapolated from fashion magazines to amateur photographs of bodies mutilated in war zones. But he inverts the pixelization process, covering fashion images with pixels and leaving visible the grisly images of tormented bodies that the mass media habitually censors.

In Pixel-Collage n. 87, 2017, for example, the shape of a model covered in purple and brown pixels coexists in the foreground with the face of a lifeless young man, his eyes full of blood. Hirschhorn’s practice emphasizes that the image has power, as a vehicle of censorship, authority, legitimization, authenticity, and hypocrisy. At the same time, his experiments with pixelization are an investigation of the current state of abstraction. The artist explicates these theoretical positions in a series of documents, statements, and sketches exhibited in a glass display case in the main room. The documents include theoretical essays by Antonio Gramsci, Giorgio Agamben, Susan Sontag, and Alain Badiou—all points of reference for Hirschhorn’s work. The “Pixel-Collages” enter in the midst of a debate on the image, with a proposition that tends to reclaim a poetic and political role for art.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.