Art in New York City. Moon Room by Thomas Houseago at Hauser & Wirth. 10 November 2014 – 17 January 2015. Hauser & Wirth, 18th Street, New York. Opening reception: Monday 10 November, 6 – 8 pm.
New York… Hauser & Wirth is pleased to present ‘Thomas Houseago. MOUN ROOM’, an immersive environment that represents a departure for the artist.
Houseago is most widely identified with monumental sculptures of the human body. His figures are admired for their brute physicality and a potent tactility redolent of their making. Drawing upon and deftly subverting classical sources, Houseago creates forms that hover between power and vulnerability, old and new worlds. But with ‘Moun Room’, the artist reverses his standard subject-object relationship and, for the first time, places the viewer in the role of primary figure and active participant. ‘Moun Room’ invites us to move through space and among complex screens of the artist’s carefully layered and pierced materials, rather than to circle an opaque form. It calls upon us to explore its softly glowing channels and unravel the processes by which Houseago has assembled and reassembled physical space in an effort to chart fresh emotional territory.
‘Thomas Houseago. MOUN ROOM’ will be on view from 10 November 2014 through 17 January 2015 at Hauser & Wirth’s downtown gallery at 511 West 18th Street. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Martha Graham Dance Company will perform a selection from Graham’s most sculptural choreography, which, like the art of Thomas Houseago, draws inspiration from primal gestures and celebrates the emotional architecture of the body. Select performances will include, ‘Errand into the Maze’, ‘Canticle for Innocent Comedians’, and ‘Dark Meadow’, and will be on view in the gallery from 11 to 13 December 2014.
About ‘Moun Room’:
Measuring approximately 37 feet by 45 feet wide, and 12 feet tall, ‘Moun Room’ is comprised of three chambers contained within one another. It retains the rough-hewn handmade quality that characterizes Houseago’s oeuvre. In early 2014, the artist conceived and built the first room and inner chamber of this work. During subsequent travels in Asia, where he visited the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Silver and Golden Pavilions of Kyoto, Japan, his vision for ‘Moun Room’ evolved. The proportions and layout of his chambers distantly recall those of ancient temples, and the spaces that Houseago has conceived – extending both within and outside of his structure’s physical walls – invite meditation upon movement and codes of behavior in response to architecture.
Hewing to traditions of low-grade sculptural construction, the walls of ‘Moun Room’ are built from individual panels made of TUF-CAL plaster and are linked together through the use of iron re- bar. The architectural ribbing of the backsides of these panels reveals that the structure’s internal ‘bones’ are akin to the ribs of the human body. But Houseago has reversed expected anatomy so that what is normally concealed and protected is externally exposed. Similarly, the soft, smooth skin of his structure’s pearlescent walls can only be experienced from within ‘Moun Room’.
Playing with notions of negative and positive, solid and void, geometric shapes are cut from the panel walls and constructed in bas-relief, mimicking the lunar phase of the moon. This circular motif, evocative here of mystical celestial medallions, has periodically recurred throughout Houseago’s oeuvre. In Moun Room the artist has created apertures of varying sizes – some large enough to walk through and others like small portholes – and uses them to engage the viewer in exploration and play. He bisects and reframes the viewer’s understanding of movement and space as the body moves around and through the work, peers out from within it.
In many ways, Houseago’s ‘Moun Room’ is a series of cracks, fractures, and planes. Its nuanced surfaces of delicate angles and accentuations have ruptured from the act of layering plaster on plaster. The subtle differences among each panel and chamber evoke a sense of rhythm and movement. The method by which Houseago achieves these visual effects has evolved over a period of nearly ten years, derived from the artist’s deep commitment to process and materials. Working with the simplicity and rawness of plaster or clay, Houseago’s overall body of work has long emphasized the performative act of sculpture manifested into a literal process of looking, thinking, and perceiving.
Likewise, the creation of ‘Moun Room’ has so fully consumed Houseago’s artistic practice over the course of this last year, that its development has become a ritualized part of daily studio life. ‘I’ve always dreamed of building an environment for showing my sculptures’, the artist has said. ‘I loved the idea of the museum… but wanted to reclaim it as an artistic domain’. In this sense, ‘Moun Room’ has come to assume the notion of a ‘maison cubiste’ for the artist, transpiring into a room of repose whose making has tuned his emotional compass art toward a new direction and broader possibilities. Embracing a sculptural practice that seeks to activate the viewer more fully, ‘Moun Room’ circles back to Houseago’s early encounters with performance art, which influenced much of his practice while he was at art school in Leeds, England.
About the Artist:
Thomas Houseago was born in Leeds, England and currently lives and works in Los Angeles CA. He studied in Europe at the Central Saint Martins College of Art, London and at De Ateliers, Amsterdam. His work has been featured in major solo exhibitions worldwide including: Gemeentemuseum den Haag, The Hague, Netherlands (2014); ‘As I Went Out One Morning’, Storm King Art Center, Mountainville NY (2013); ‘What Went Down’, The Centre International d’Art et du Paysage de l’Ile de Vassivière, Vassivière, France (2011), realized in cooperation with Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany (2011) and Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, England (2010); and ‘Striding Figure/Standing Figure’ at the Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy (2013).
His work has also been shown in important intentional group shows, which include: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago IL (2014); Le Consortium, Provence, France (2013); Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy (2011); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York NY (2010); and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles CA (2010).