Thomas Houseago is known for his large-scale sculpture work, immense, roughshod works that use cheap materials and a relatively unstable construction process to create immediately impressive, visually stimulating objects that often play on the dissonance between subject and depiction. Pulling the viewer into the artist’s unique sculptural vision, the works unfold over the course of their creation, physical demands and limitations aiding in the work’s construction.
For his newest show at Hauser and Wirth in New York, however, the British-born, Los Angeles-based artist has expanded his practice in what seems to be both directions, creating one of this largest works in recent memory while using its scale as a method to explore deeper modes of experience and interaction throughout the piece.
Moun Room, as the single work is called, is a winding maze, constructed from TUF-CAL plaster and re-bar, which welcomes the viewer inside its series of chambers, each one possessing multiple modes of entry and exit. Viewers pass into the space, and slowly explore each concentric ring, eventually moving to the center of the work, where a chamber full of geometrically sculpted walls offers a moment of strangely evocative calm.
Houseago’s regular set formal aesthetics (unfinished surfaces, immense shapes, etc.) are on view here, but the expanded environment he works with allows for more obtuse spatial relationships rarely seen in the artist’s work. Crescent and ovaloid gaps in each set of walls often mirror or complement the decorations on the next set of walls, creating shifting patterns as the viewer passes by or stops to examine the break in material.
It’s an interesting work particularly given the spatial and relational politics of the gallery itself, where the viewer is often pressured to avoid touching the work, or even coming too close. By dint of these embedded policies, certain passages take on a perilous implication, almost daring the visitor to utilize them. This is perhaps most comically demonstrated in the second ring of walls, where an inch high piece of material almost dares the viewer to pass over it and violate the unspoken vertical hierarchies of the work itself. As such, reaching the middle of the work has a certain rebellious quality, despite its amicably wide pathways.
But what ultimately defines Houseago’s work is the dialectical relationship it takes on with the environment surrounding it. Extended interaction with this series of cubes, a passage between the outermost wall and the surrounding space makes one particularly aware of the walls that lie several feet beyond, and which bound the work inside Hauser and Wirth’s 18th Street Gallery. In short, any placement of the work inside quickly renders the space around it as complicit, and turns the full gallery into just one more fold in Houseago’s unraveling series of walls.
— D. Creahan
Thomas Houseago: “Moun Room” [Hauser and Wirth]