Thomas Houseago - Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale New York Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Catalogue Essay

    California-based artist Thomas Houseago is known for his abstracted figurative sculptures that reference the modernist genres of Cubism and Futurism, playing on traditional adaptations of historical statuary by denouncing formal portrait traditions and instead integrating “primitive” elements into his art. Houseago’s work, made from ordinary materials chosen for aesthetic reasons, evoke an intentional impression of low quality distinctive stylistic effects. His pieces appear to encroach physically on
    the viewer due to their dominating size and position juxtaposed with their segmented and exposed construction. To build these works, the artist begins a seemingly impulsive process by molding a structure of metal rods then adding an array of traditional yet common materials such as plaster and plywood with prodigious creative vigor. In some instances, his work incorporates delineated, anatomical sketches drawn in graphite on charcoal directly on the media. Houseago’s attempts at re-examining primal folk elements typical in Modernism with his neo-expressionistic undertakings create a contextual discourse wrought with ironic contentions and various philosophical and cultural interpretations.
    Untitled (Coin Mask I), 2008, conjures powerful references to the artist’s stylistic associations with Cubism. The object’s framework is exposed revealing all fragments and constructive qualities of the final form. As Houseago deals almost exclusively with opposites, the present lot can be interpreted as everted, with all artistic elements converted into antithetical counterparts, creating an amalgamation in which construction and intentional configuration are indistinguishable to the viewer. The internal armature becomes integral to our aesthetic understanding of the piece. As Alexander Kennedy put it in his 2007 exhibition review of A Million Miles Away, “A purist might attack Houseago for asking too much of his materials, which serve as both expressive, worked constituents and raw stuff in their own right, but this fluctuation between both sculptural approaches could also be seen as a strength.” Untitled (Coin Mask I), is an optical eulogy celebrating many of the traditional sculptural scopes of Cubism, Futurism, and Primitivism. Yet, Houseago intentionally subverts composition and form creating a challenging artistic genre that is uniquely his own.

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Untitled (Coin Mask I)

2008
plywood and graphite
45 ½ x 28 ½ x 2 in. (116 x 72.5 x 6 cm)
Galerie Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

Estimate
$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $74,500

Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

7 March 2013
New York