Thomas Houseago

Thomas Houseago

The Modern Institute, Glasgow, until Sat 5 Jan


LA-based, Leeds-born Houseago makes his Glasgow debut at the Modern Institute with slashed and scraped figurative works, sculptures that amalgamate stylistic elements from Cubism, Expressionism and Futurism. His work ranges from the ridiculous (bucket heads and fragments of cartoon body parts) to the psychologically disturbing (decapitated torsos and grimacing masks). All of the pieces are characterised by an angst-ridden, expressive touch: the figure is attacked and roughly manipulated so that the remaining human debris provokes an immediate emotional reaction. That said, there is no sense of a stultifying, predictable aesthetic in his work; each figure dictates its own form, with Houseago quickly gathering, supporting and pummelling materials around a coagulating idea.

Most of the work is informed by a lumpen, deconstructed classicism, with squatting and supine figures created out of Hessian and jute that is dragged over angular armatures, slathered in plaster and scarred with graphite. Figures are either stretched out and pinned to the floor or are perched on MDF plinths in mock-heroic poses. Naturalistic elements are occasionally offset with surreal additions such as bunny ears, while sections of the figure are removed to create gutted bodies without organs.

His work critiques the early Modernist obsession with ‘primitivism’, turning early Picasso compositions (such as ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’) into three-dimensional tableaux, with figures flattened and pushed up against an imaginary two-dimensional surface. The influence of Boccioni and Giacometti is kept in check with sometimes comedic forms – think Anthony Hancock’s imposing sculpture ‘Aphrodite at the Waterhole’.

Thomas Houseago: A Million Miles Away

  • 3 stars

New sculptures by the English-born, LA-based artist, who turns his objects inside out so that construction and form become one.

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