Hirsch is one of Germany’s foremost contemporary wood artists, with outstanding achievements to his credit, especially in the field of wood engraving. An emeritus professor at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (Academy of Visual Arts, HGB) in Leipzig, he is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gutenberg Prize of the City of Leipzig in 2001 and the Hans Meid Medal for lifetime achievement in 2009. He is notable for his critical stance in questioning the promises of the social models he experienced in the course of his life, an attitude that is reflected both in numerous sequences of graphics and in the more than 120 books he illustrated.
Both kinds of works occupied pride of place in the exhibition, which presented a retrospective of his most important creative phases ranging from the artist’s diploma project, wood engravings inspired by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, to the last major sequence of wood engravings of his career, which also supplied the exhibition’s title: Friss die Reste des Vergessens (Devour the remnants of forgetfulness). The twelve life engravings of the artist’s book were partly inspired by texts by the poet Yvan Goll and the journalist Schalom Ben-Chorin. The dialogue between images and text was amplified in the exhibition by handwritten, illustrated artist’s letters, which reveal personal details and offer insights into Hirsch’s creative process.
Hirsch’s works represent a notable proportion of the Herzog August Bibliothek’s collection of painter’s books, which was generously supplemented for the purposes of the exhibition by loans from Beate and Peter Labuhn (Stendal).