Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Houseago’

Reign Room

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Thomas Houseago’s Moun Room is up now at Hauser & Wirth.  Low-grade in materials, the work is crafted in plaster, yet it is a navigable structure that organizes space.  Thus, Moun Room teeters between sculpture and architecture.

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Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

Comprising concentric rectangles, Moun Room is 37 feet by 45 feet wide and 12 feet tall at the center. Erected on plywood substrate and joined by rebar, the walls of Moun Room combine TUF-CAL plaster mixed with hemp. The interior surfaces appear to be sanded down, and in many places, they crack and crumple as a result of the plaster process. When considering these surfaces over the ribbed exteriors, a visitor might think of skin and bones. Pausing to gaze through its portholes and oculi could evoke eyes – or any other holes of the body. But the presence of any literal “figure” ends when Moun Room is empty of viewers.

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Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

 

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Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

And to leave behind his mythical figures is a major departure for Houseago. His grotesque, hulking figures brought him a lot of attention, including several shows at the other Hauser & Wirth locations. What stands in place of these figures looks like a provisional temple. The holes cut into the walls look like moon diagrams, and it’s tempting to imagine this temple outdoors, where sunbeams would pipe through the space. It feels pagan. This is another aspect that dangles Moun Room between sculpture and architecture.

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Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

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Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

1900 years ago, Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city. He installed cultic statues on the Temple Mount and built there a temple to the Roman god Jupiter. His pagan sites in Jerusalem survived, despite the tidal shifts of Constantine and Julian. But over the centuries, the cultic and pagan shrines on the Temple Mount crumbled. The Temple Mount changed hands from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim control. Fast forward to today: it’s a lethally contested powder keg for both prayer and violence, at which worship and policing are mutually exclusive.

Regarding Jerusalam: “When you bring the religious dimension, it absolutizes the conflict — you can divide land, you can divide security, but the sacred is indivisible,” says a philosophy scholar in a recent New York Times article. In the absolutist context of religion, the existential “either-or” joins the formal (and facile) binaries of “negative and positive, solid and void” evident in Moun Room.

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Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

Moun Room is not explicitly religious, or really even sacred, but it is a high-value structure in a rarefied commercial space – a space that less than a decade ago was a gay roller disco nightclub. Whether sculpture or architecture, full of visitors or empty, Moun Room reminds us of the high stakes and changing faces of The Sacred.

Entropy Cacophony

Saturday, May 29th, 2010
The Whitney Museum generously stayed open for three days in a row last week, though only at the expense of trimming down Michael Asher’s plan to keep it open for a week.  Supposedly, the Museum didn’t have the resources to support such a marathon, though it also announced last week that it would relocate downtown.  Curiously, that spotlight-swimping announcement came just days after MoMA PS1 opened Greater New York 2010.
Another artist, Zefrey Throwell, shared Asher’s ambition to use the entire Museum.  And though the Biennial curators didn’t invite Zafrey for this year’s edition, someone more permanent at the Museum did.
Zefrey summoned, then directed 75 friends and acquaintances through a multi-tiered blitzkrieg of 25 simultaneous actions scattered throughout the entire Museum premises.  The men’s bathroom in the basement, down the hall from the Museum Shop and Sandwiched, was a rockin’ with two people having “real” animal, noisy sex in a stall.
The elevator was vacated by the overwhelming odor, which began to smell sulfurous, resulting in a very temporary bomb scare.
A nude woman walked down the stairwell, a live-action Duchamp; while a nude man walked through the galleries accompanied by a fully-clothed friend.
On the third floor, a young woman on crutches tripped over her friend’s foot, leading to shouting, pushing and shoving, wrestling, and then heroic guards: “Break it up, ladies!”  Meanwhile, an earnest lover’s quarrel escalated until the girl began chasing the boy past the Pae White tapestry and around the Thomas Houseago colossus.
Outside, a giant paper airplane battle sent folded Folded Fighting Falcons into the sculpture garden.  And on the fifth floor, two lovers spooned on the floor in front of the Mike Kelley.
In the most confrontational performance, a clumsy visitor spilled his hot coffee on another visitor, who was clutching a newborn baby in her arms.  The woman began to scream that her baby was burned and permanently disfigured.  The man panicked and spilled the rest of the cup down his white shirt and khakis pants.  The guards swarmed, cried, “What are you doing, bringing coffee into the museum?”  The man pleaded, “What is she doing, bringing a baby into the museum?”
In the most physical performance, Zefrey himself snuck in a counterfeit Charles Ray painting – a “floppy flower,” as he calls it – and stuck it to the wall.  Then he yanked it down and bolted.  A woman alterted the guards: “He’s stealing the artwork!”  The guards chased, but at their slow pace, Zefrey found himself alone when he made it downstairs.  Still, the commotion caught the attention of a vigilant tourist, who sprang into action, and tackled Zefrey.  The guards pounced after that – and ripped up the artwork, limb from limb.
Gary Carrion-Murayari was in the galleries giving a personal curator’s tour to a wealthy couple when the quarreling lovers raced by.  Spotting him, and not yet “in the know,” I asked if this was a performance.  “Not one that’s authorized,” he sighed.
And after five minutes, it was over.
The burned baby was really a doll.  The sulfurous smell, just fart spray.  The stop-thief woman: Zefrey’s mother.  The nudity was real, and so was the bathroom sex.  Those f*ckers were forcibly ejected (and photographed).
Epilogue: Afterward, the performers met at Central Park and “had some beers.”  Zefrey got his hair and beard cut, and then returned to the Museum, undetected, and struck up conversation with a guard who, an hour earlier, had pinned Zefrey to the floor.  “It’s been a hell of a day,” he sighed.
Coincidence: a recent mission by Improv Everywhere sent performers dressed as Ghostbusters into the NY Public Library.  Ghostbusters footage – and vehicle – feature prominently in the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s “I Like America, America Likes Me.”

Lisa Kirk, "Whitney Cake," 2004

The Whitney Museum generously stayed open for three days in a row last week, though only at the expense of trimming down Michael Asher’s plan to keep it open for a week.  Understandably, the Museum didn’t have the resources to support such a marathon, though it did announce last week its imminent, multimillion-dollar migration.  Curiously, that spotlight-swiping announcement surfaced just two days after MoMA PS1 opened Greater New York 2010.

Sharing Asher’s ambition to use the entire Museum is Zefrey Throwell, a NYC-based artist “investigating honest communication, in all its varied plumage.”  And though curators Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari didn’t invite Zefrey for this Biennial, someone “higher up” at the Museum did.  The Whitney insider from on high “thought I should be in the Biennial,” says Zefrey.

Performer with Pae White's "Smoke Knows," 2009 (image: Zefrey Throwell)

And so he was, at least for five minutes.  Zefrey summoned, then directed, 75 friends and fellows through a multi-tiered blitzkrieg of 25 simultaneous actions scattered throughout the entire Museum premises.  The super-scene was called Entropy Symphony.  No bystander saw it coming, but nearly all got a piece of it.

Band of Outsiders, 1964

The scene downstairs: Several party poopers, no pun intended, reported to guards that the men’s bathroom in the basement was a rockin’ with a heterosexual couple having noisy sex in a stall – within earshot of the Museum Shop and Sandwiched, the temporary cafe.

If this stall's a' rockin.... (IMAGE: Zefrey Throwell)

Meanwhile, the elevator belched malodorous fumes, which began to smell sulfurous, resulting in a very temporary bomb scare, quickly downgraded to “stink bomb” status.

In the stairwell – the only alternative to the elevator – a nude woman sauntered down, a live-action Duchamp; and a nude man strolled through the galleries accompanied by a fully-clothed friend.

Duchamp (l), Mel Ramos (r)

Spooners and Nude at Mike Kelley (image: Zefrey Throwell)

On the third floor, just outside the Kate Gilmore struggle, a young woman on crutches tripped and fell over her friend’s foot.  “You did it on purpose,” she shrieked!  Mutual blame escalated to shouting, shoving, wrestling, and then valorous guards: “Break it up, ladies!”

image: Zefrey Throwell

Meanwhile, an earnest lovers’ quarrel around the corner hit its zenith when the girl began chasing the boy past the Pae White tapestry and around Thomas Houseago’s colossal Baby. And downstairs, a gang fought over a frozen chicken found on the floor near the Robert Grosvenor sculpture.

"Fowl Play" (image: Zefrey Throwell)

Outside, a giant paper airplane battle sent folded Fighting Falcons into the sculpture garden.  And on the fifth floor, two sweethearts (a recent Columbia MFA and his girl) spooned on the floor, admiring Mike Kelley’s More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin.

In the most confrontational performance, a clumsy visitor spilled his hot coffee on a woman clutching a newborn baby in her arms.  The woman wailed that her baby was burned and permanently disfigured.  Catastrophe! The man panicked and dumped the rest of the cup down his white shirt and khakis pants.  Guards swarmed, crying, “What are you doing, bringing coffee into the museum?”

The man pleaded, “What is she doing, bringing a baby into the museum?”

Thomas Houseago, "Baby," 2009-10

And in the most athletic performance, Zefrey himself snuck in a counterfeit Charles Ray painting – a “floppy flower,” as he calls it – and stuck it to the wall.  Then he yanked it down and bolted.

Run LOL Run! (image: Zefrey Throwell)

-A woman alerted the guards: “He’s stealing the artwork!”  They chased, but at their slow pace, Zefrey easily escaped downstairs – until the commotion caught the attention of a vigilant witness, who sprang into action and tackled Zefrey.  The guards pounced after that – and ripped up the artwork, pistil from stamen.

image: Zefrey Throwell

Gary Carrion-Murayari was in the third-floor galleries giving an intimate Curator’s Tour to a wealthy couple when the quarreling lovers raced by.  Spotting him, and not yet in the know, I asked him if this was a performance.  “Not one that’s authorized,” he mumbled.

And after five minutes, it was over.

BUSTED! Zefrey Throwell, red-handed (image: the Artist)

The burned baby was really a doll.  The sulfurous smell? Just fart spray.  The Stop-Thief woman: Zefrey’s mother, visiting for the weekend.  All just props and actors.  -But the nudity was real, as was the bathroom sex: those f*ckers were forcibly ejected (and photographed).

Epilogue: Afterward, the performers met at Central Park and “had some beers.”  Zefrey got his hair and beard cut, and then returned to the Museum, undetected, and struck up conversation with a guard who, an hour earlier, had pinned Zefrey to the floor.  “It’s been a hell of a day,” the guard sighed.

"Don't You Recognize Me?" (image: the artist)

Round 2

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Greetings from the Miami Beach Convention Center!

The humid air provided remedy by helping me to sweat out all of the toxins from last night’s tour of open bars and nightclubs that still allow smoking indoors.

(l-r) Sterling Ruby @ Pace Wildenstein, Thomas Houseago @ Michael Werner
(l-r) Sterling Ruby @ Pace Wildenstein, Thomas Houseago @ Michael Werner

Supposedly, art is selling steadily, just not at the maniacal pace of years past.  Many of the booths look conservative, peddling old reliables: Alex Katz, Warhol, Richter, Richard Prince, lots of pop.  The oozy, polychrome Sterling Ruby monument at Pace Wildenstein was memorable, as was a towering Thomas Houseago sculpture. Actually, many other giant figures populated the fair, perhaps sired by Marc Quinn’s 500-kg orchid cast in bronze.

Marc Quinn @ Thaddaeus Ropac
Marc Quinn @ Thaddaeus Ropac

Meanwhile, there’s a revolution of round supports:

Robert Mangold
Robert Mangold, Ring Image H, 2009

Marc Quinn, We Share Our Chemistry with the Stars, 2009
Marc Quinn, We Share Our Chemistry with the Stars, 2009

Ugo Rondinone, No. 92, 1997
Ugo Rondinone, No. 92, 1997

Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2009
Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2009

And myriad mirrors, stainless steel, and other reflective surfaces:

Tony Cragg, Inclination, 2009
Tony Cragg, Inclination, 2009

David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen
David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen

More Altmejd, this guy rocks
More Altmejd, this guy rocks

Jonathan Monk, Deflated Sculpture, 2009
Jonathan Monk, Deflated Sculpture, 2009

Relentlessly awesome Jim Lambie, at Anton Kern Gallery
Relentlessly awesome Jim Lambie, at Anton Kern Gallery

Do collectors love to see themselves in their art?  Is narcissism a component of conspicuous consumption?  Let’s ask the pros.  Overseeing this empire of objects are Art Basel Co-Directors Marc (with a C) Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer:

Art Basel Co-Directors Marc Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer
Art Basel Co-Directors Marc Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer

Super artist Ai Weiwei (r) and Camille X (l)
Super artist Ai Weiwei (r) and Camille X (l)

My favorite thing so far has been the Wade Guyton wall at Friedrich Petzel. EXCLUSIVE to the SVA blog, Andrea Teschke, Director of Friedrich Petzel Gallery, talks us through it. Thanks, Andrea!

My least favorite thing was the rhinestone-coated deer by Marc Swanson at Richard Gray Gallery. Deer art went extinct in 2004, followed soon by sasquatch art. It’s not better than Liza Lou, and def can’t beat Damien Hirst: you can’t top his diamond skull, which is the ultimate in Bedazzler Art. Shouldn’t I shell out my $60,000 for some real bling?

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