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b. 1972, United Kingdom

Thomas Houseago Biography

British figurative sculptor Thomas Houseago is known for large-scale figures positioned in contrapposto stances. He often incorporates two-dimensional elements to provide a delicate appearance to otherwise massive constructions.

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Early Years

Raised by a single mother who placed great importance on visual arts and architecture, Houseago developed a sensitivity to physical forms and internal sentiment at a young age, which finds expression in the robust yet delicate dispositions of his sculpted figures.

Born in West Yorkshire, Houseago studied at Jacob Kramer College in Leeds and Central Saint Martins in London. In 1994, Houseago moved to Amsterdam to study at De Atelier, where he became acquainted with the works of figurative artists like Marlene Dumas.

Houseago then lived in Brussels for eight years before moving to Los Angeles. His first solo exhibition in the U.S., Serpent, was held at David Kordansky Gallery in Culver City in 2008.

Thomas Houseago Artworks

Thomas Houseago's skeletal figures are replicated across drawing, painting, installation, and sculpture. They are often made from flimsy looking materials, placed in vulnerable postures, flattened, or drawn over.

Physical Distortions

Houseago's early works took the form of performances influenced by the likes of Joseph Beuys and late-period Pablo Picasso paintings seen at the Tate Modern. Later inspirations include Henry Moore, Francis Picabia, and Jacob Epstein, who inspired Houseago to turn to human figures.

Accordingly, distorted bodies and figures in motion are evident across Houseago's body of work. They are made explicit in works like Folded Man (and 4 detail shots) (1997), in which a folded plaster figure appears ready to pounce.

Subverting expectations of weightiness, Joanne (6 views) (2005) appears as a flimsy effigy, depicting a pale figure with a ghastly face propped-up by thin plaster boards on either side, disgruntled and kneeling on the ground.

Fragile Figures

Houseago credits the fragility of the white male psyche for inspiring much of his work. Growing up in the North of England, the artist tell Ocula Magazine about the period of industrial collapse that resulted in the emergence of a 'hyper-macho culture' that was at once terrifying and tragic.

Opposing this power display, the public installation Golem (1988) subverts the expectations of monument and reverence by offering a headless, seated black body with one leg propped up against its chest, serenely resting in a garden, despite its beastly appearance.

The same vulnerability is found in Untitled (Folded man red stomach) (2000), a hollowed plaster figure with its torso ripped out and both legs planted into the ground.

Reimagining Sculpture

With rough surfaces and incomplete forms, Houseago's sculptures hint at the process of making and retain a humble appearance, at once pushing beyond and recovering traditional techniques and materials from classical and modern sculpture.

Assemblages like Figure 2 (2008) incorporate graphite drawings on otherwise flat surfaces to create three-dimensional figures made from wooden cut-out pieces. Held together by iron rebar, facial expressions and musculature are sketched on the body to generate a sense of depth.

Likewise, Malibu Owl (2020) comprises an aluminum surface on which is scribbled an uneven owl figure raised on a block of stone.

Exhibitions

Thomas Houseago has exhibited widely across Europe, the U.K, and the United States.

Select solo and duo exhibitions include Gagosian, London (2021); Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels (2021); Xavier Hufkens, Brussels (2020); Royal Academy, London (2019); Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2019); Rockefeller Plaza, New York (2015); Hauser & Wirth, New York (2014); St. James's Church, London (2013); Galleria Borghese, Rome (2013); and SMAK, Ghent (2003).

Select group exhibitions include Gagosian, Paris (2020); Grand Palais, Paris (2017); Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2017); Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2015); Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago (2014); and Whitney Biennial 2010 (2010).

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2022

Thomas Houseago Featured Artworks

Psychedelic Construction Mask IV by Thomas Houseago contemporary artwork sculpture
Thomas Houseago Psychedelic Construction Mask IV, 2021 Bronze
47 x 36.5 x 17 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Yosemite Day 4 - Red Bear at Toulumne River by Thomas Houseago contemporary artwork painting
Thomas Houseago Yosemite Day 4 - Red Bear at Toulumne River, 2022 Acrylic on canvas
274.3 x 182.9 cm
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Xavier Hufkens
Midnight Lady by Thomas Houseago contemporary artwork sculpture
Thomas Houseago Midnight Lady, 2018-2021 Wood

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Xavier Hufkens
Soma Care Painting I by Thomas Houseago contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Thomas Houseago Soma Care Painting I, 2018 Graphite and charcoal on canvas
121.9 x 91.4 x 5.7 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Malibu Owl by Thomas Houseago contemporary artwork sculpture
Thomas Houseago Malibu Owl, 2020 aluminium
170 x 59 x 59 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
A Dreamer (after LH) by Thomas Houseago contemporary artwork sculpture
Thomas Houseago A Dreamer (after LH), 2020 Bronze and oak
108 x 41.9 x 71.5 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Lying Figure (Mother Father) by Thomas Houseago contemporary artwork sculpture
Thomas Houseago Lying Figure (Mother Father), 2011 Bronze
122 x 134 x 457 cm
The Modern Institute Contact Gallery

Thomas Houseago Recent & Recent Exhibitions

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Thomas Houseago Represented By

Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA
Gagosian Athens, Basel, Beverly Hills, Geneva, Gstaad +6
Xavier Hufkens contemporary art gallery in St-Georges, Brussels, Belgium
Xavier Hufkens Brussels

Thomas Houseago In Ocula Magazine

Thomas Houseago In Video & Audio

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