Thomas Houseago at David Kordansky
The Magzine, February/March 2009
by Eve Wood
British artist Thomas Houseago's first solo exhibition in Los Angeles at the David Kordansky Gallery, reinvigorates modern figuration utilizing materials considered by some to be outdated, including wood, bronze, plaster, clay, hemp and iron rebar, breaking traditional artistic standards of functionality and structure to create monolithic sculptures that derive from a drawing practice and intimate a broader more versatile relationship to form.
Works like the exhibition's centerpiece "Untitled (Red Man)" 2008, convey both a sense of whimsy and power as the figure stands fourteen feet at the center of the gallery and represents a Frankenstein-like template from which the other sculptures seem to derive. Awkward, yet startling in its sheer weight and presence, the sculpture presides over the surrounding space like a weird mascot of the dispossessed, rejecting the art historical moment from which it was born. Embracing his chosen materials, Houseago rejects the sometime strict rigidity of Modernism, opting instead to reanimate the figure on his own terms. Still other works like "Untitled" (2008) address tribal form wherein "the primitive" is laid bare, the structure itself opened out, revealing the underpinnings on which the figure is built.
Houseago is not interested in conveying the pristine flawless energy of Greek statuary, though he is intensely fascinated with the shapes and positions found in Greek form, and many of the sculptures speak directly to those formal concerns, albeit deliberately crude and misshapen. Still other bronze sculptures like "Untitled" 2008 sit atop a redwood pedestal and reference the work of Constantin Brancusi, remaining at once active and dissociative. Ultimately, Houseago's sculptural practice is about the process of letting go as the artist himself admits "it's the uncontrollable moment in which the work either goes in the wrong direction or becomes better than I ever dared hope. That's the Frankenstein moment. It is gruesome to see your imagination turn into something physical."