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Figuratively Speaking:
A Conversation with Thomas Houseago

by Rachel Rosenfield Lafo


Thomas Houseago’s expressionist sculptures, part of a renewed interest in figuration, are popping up everywhere, in one-person and group exhibitions in Brussels, Amsterdam, Milan, London, Glasgow, Paris, Berlin, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Marfa. This fall and winter, both the Rennie Collection in Vancouver and Modern Art Oxford are hosting shows of his idiosyncratically constructed figures. Imbued with contradictory characteristics, Houseago’s works are at the same time abstract and representational, monstrous yet vulnerable, aggressive but somehow casual, animated yet still, three-dimensional but flat, and unfinished looking yet satisfyingly complete. Mining the depths of art history, he references a myriad of sources, from the arts of antiquity to Rodin, the Modernist sculptures of Brancusi and Picasso, folk art, and non-Western sculpture. He also takes inspiration from music and other forms of popular culture such as cartoons, comics, children’s books, and album covers. Born in 1972, Houseago is of a generation that “sees Modernist art through the lens of pop culture, not the other way around.” His work can convey the reductive quality of a Brancusi, the muscularity and energy of a Rodin, the multiplicity of viewpoints of a Picasso, or the futuristic look of a sci-fi character.

Baby, 2009–10.
Tuf-cal, iron rebar, hemp, wood, graphite, and charcoal, 102 x 90 x 80.5 in.

Photo: Fredrik Nilsen, Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, Xavier Hufkens, and L&M Arts, Los Angeles

 


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