Helmet Mask II
Tuf-Cal, hemp, iron rebar, redwood
194 x 102.9 x 73.7 cm / 76 3/8 x 40 1/2 x 29 in
Hauser & Wirth is proud to present 'The mess I'm looking for', an exhibition of works by Thomas Houseago. 'The mess I'm looking for' will act as the third part in a trilogy of exhibitions comprising Houseago's debut show with the gallery, with 'I'll be your sister' and 'Special Brew', opening at Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row on 7 September. For his first solo show in Switzerland, Houseago will present a new, large-scale figure and a selection of wall works, including reliefs and masks. Together, these works showcase Houseago's vast range of influences, from the abundance of nature and the sculpture of non-Western art to the superheroes and villains of comic books and cartoons. Houseago's interpretation of these subjects highlights his sensitivity both to the art of the Renaissance and the masters of Modernism, as well as his own innovative approach to figurative sculpture.
Spreading across over five metres of the gallery's floor, Houseago's monumental figure is resolutely flat - a combination of a head and hands formed from iron rebar and a torso and limbs made from boards of Tuf-cal plaster outlined with restless graphite sketches. Yet despite its raw, unfinished quality and its skeletal, two-dimensional form, the reclining figure seems to press into the ground with such force that it looks as if it might rise up from its supine position at any moment to tower over the viewer.
Houseago's masks vary in size from small wall works, to large visages balanced on wooden pedestals. Characteristic of Houseago's sculptures, each mask bears the mark of its maker; grooves from the artist's hands provide texture to the already rough surfaces of the works. Yet, despite the conspicuous presence of the artist, these ghostly faces seem to possess a character of their own. Their hollow gaze returns that of the viewer with a unique combination of aggression and vulnerability.
A new bronze relief will also be on view in Zurich. An exercise and exploration of formal composition, Houseago's reliefs range from single panels to triptychs reminiscent of altarpieces from the Northern Renaissance, with each section defined by a rigid, rectangular border. Houseago fills the reliefs with sturdy trees with numerous snake-like branches and muscular human figures standing in traditional poses, all confined within the strict space of the panels.
Concurrent with his exhibition in Zurich, Houseago will also present two exhibitions of new works at Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row which will be on view from 7 September to 27 October 2012.