Open Wall (Beautiful Wall), 2017
Plaster (Tuf-Cal), hemp, iron rebar
144 x 300 x 300 inches
Between surface and substance. The painting is the backside of a wall, the one visibly worked with marks.
Faces screaming out of the wall.
That which interacts integrates.
How space and environmental envelope unfolds and then retreat into object. How one type plays off the other, like oil and water, yin and yang. Elusive, changing, layered.
Abstract 1, 2015-2017
Plaster (Tuf-Cal), hemp, and iron rebar
103 x 78 1/2 x 86 inches
Whorls and swirls, an eye, a head.
Black Painting 7, 2016
Oil on canvas mounted on board
108 x 72 x 2 inches
At a certain distance, all paintings look the same. As an installation, they are modular and interchangeable. Upon closer inspection, they may be nearly equally as flat in their relations, but it's clear that the confrontation is reminiscently human, or at least the lineage, as size, color and scale recall 500 pound gorilla.
For those of us who grew up in rural or semi-rural areas, there were always remote locations, sites of childhood interest that were marked by land formations or possibly built structures, most often ruins. They were places of personal discovery as well as loci of social interaction. When I think about Houseago's "The Ridge" as it is described in this exhibition, I think of such places of mine (Devil's Staircase, The Dizzy Houses). How these sculptures (and paintings) that all function on a larger scale (presumably architecture--walled sections all) facilitate such memory as well as occupy a present, is worth pondering.
A wall, the site of ancient communication, and perception of xenophobia in our current state (literally as governing body and also of the mind). Hidden voices echo through such chambers. Whereas a wall (as an impenetrable feature) would presumably keep things out (and potentially worse things in), Houseago's approach is to allow such thoughts while also allowing full transparency and some passage. We are able to walk around the structures (sculptural definition at its base), through them (the interactive, immersive installation), and at them front and back (a painting). So, the continual recto/verso play between Open Wall, shows a refined exterior facade and a rougher interior, one that reveals the fiber and structural elements that uphold this wall, itself pieced together in three sections, three dimensions (and possibly four or more) and three media distinctions.
Abstract I, postponed nearby, stands as a counterpoint to what I just said. It's as if the wall has folded in on itself and the layers (in a defensive move) look outward with one eye open. Polyphemus. It has been an observation of mine from the start with Houseago's work many years ago, that figures are often depicted with one eye open and one eye closed. I used to think about it in terms of emptiness and depth combined with fullness and flat. Lately, it almost seems like a squint, a way to get a closer look at something off in the distance or a visual, bodily reaction to reduce contrast and see things for what they are in essence. We do this all the time when we are looking closely. Focus.
Given that the values of black and white dominant this exhibition and Houseago's entire oeuvre to a large extent, it seems that there is a quest to integrate oppositions and dualities such as color (the presence or absence of light as white and black ) and it's not alway clear which is which. This seems to be the game as structures fold and unfold in time in space, just as brush marks travel and arc, a trajectory upon a flat surface.
The paintings in this show barely register until one is close enough not to squint and once upon them, they envelope yet seem all the same. That they are all a face goes back to the observations about facade seen in The Wall.
Perhaps the rise and fall of a wall is worth pondering. I mentioned edifice of original civilization, and also current political distractions, but it's also worth thinking about Pink Floyd's The Wall and how its imagery plays into the mind of an artist coming of age during that same time, a time within the album when specters of World War II and agonizing patriarchies loomed large. I may be stretching a bit here and getting slighly off track, but that's what we get to do as artists, individuals who are willing to build things up in order to tear them down (or vice versa). During such a process, we are looking closely to appreciate such change, because we know, as these artworks suggest, that the distinctions between inside and outside are not always as they seem. This is worth thinking about as a body on whatever scale you wish. So, membrane=fence=wall=ridge.