More Is More

The world according to Sachs pairs a scale model of Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation, the most utopian early modern housing block, and a blaring, 10,000-watt boombox of similar size and shape; a scale model of Villa Savoye and a not dissimilar McDonald's restaurant. It contrasts a neat sculpture park (Brancusi, Calder, Di Suvero) with a crumbling ghetto street. And a full-scale "Nutsy's McDonald's," equipped to serve burgers and fries, meets its match in a podium/bar/DJ station stocked with liquor and emblazoned with the seal of the president of the United States. Banks of real-time videos surveil viewers and space.

The whole thing is linked and encircled by a network of spiraling and looping asphalt roads that continues on the floor below. It may be an awkward way to turn sculpture into installation, but it has a wild logic that's funny and terrific. The only cause for complaint is that the remote-control cars are inactive. Only on Tuesday evenings do they come to life, along with the McDonald's fryers, to animate, unify, and turn this inert installation into a giant, greasy game.

No need to allude to Lascaux or Tora Bora: a detail of Hirschhorn's Cavemanman installation at Barbara Gladstone
photo: Robin Holland
No need to allude to Lascaux or Tora Bora: a detail of Hirschhorn's Cavemanman installation at Barbara Gladstone

Details

Thomas Hirschhorn
Barbara Gladstone Gallery
515 West 24th Street
Through December 21

Tom Sachs
Bohen Foundation
415 West 13th Street
Through February 14

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Cavemanman took Hirschhorn and his assistants two weeks to make. Sachs's installation took two years. And while Cavemanmanplays dumb, embraces lack of quality, and calls for pure equality, "Nutsy's" asks how Le Corbu's democratic vision of improving humanity by housing it in style got transformed into an international infestation of fast-food franchises where everyone can eat equally unhealthily. So why is it that Hirschhorn's work, mimicking the new global model of cheap materiality and hyperproductivity, seems less simplistic and more optimistic? Why does Sachs's work, while pondering the global debasement of the dream of equality, sometimes come off as glib, crass, irresponsible, or cynical? It would be going too far to say that's the difference right now, in art and politics, between Europe and America. Maybe it's just proof that life is unfair.

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