Thomas Houseago: a self-portrait of the artist completed by his pals Brad Pitt and Flea

 

Brad Pitt’s poetry

The story could begin with a few poetic sentences from Brad Pitt: “He walks right by, though he doesn’t see (me)- Shapes and obsessions block his view. He disappears into his cavern, for yet another round. (…) What does it mean to lay oneself open…with a chainsaw?”

Flea’s poetry

And then it might continue with a reflection from Flea, one of the founding members of rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers: “The panic has started early, his wrenched guts had been letting let him know about it since his first poopy diaper toddler steps. There was no distance between Thomas and his guts. Ever. His creation come straight from the gut bucket, dripping in love and survival”.

Retrospective at the musée d’art moderne

Pitt and Flea are talking (1) about British artist Thomas Houseago (born in 1972) who is the subject of a retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Bridge between art history and now

It’s fascinating due to the fact that the production of this artist, who is passionate, visionary even, is literally steeped in the history of modern sculpture. Houseago listens to music while he works, and something tells me it isn’t chamber music. You can see that. It grates, it howls, then it quietens down. Houseago, who’s a raw and spontaneous artist, acts as a bridge between art history and the present day.

An aesthetic family

He’s remade his own aesthetic family with the help of a few eminent members of modernity. His art is violent and brutal yet also harmonious, and the ensemble dances perfectly through the galleries arranged in dialogue with the neoclassical décor of the exterior, that of the Palais de Tokyo.

Past trauma

Houseago has an astounding way of talking about his past traumas and his recent metamorphosis, which dates from six years ago. Before that he endured a number of difficulties during his childhood, followed by the promise of better days sparked by a visit to a Picasso exhibition at the age of 16 at the Tate gallery, then his enrolment at Goldsmiths College.

Muna El Fituri

The key to his recent changes, it would seem, lies largely with his partner; the brilliant and unassuming Muna El Fituri, who is omnipresent in his universe: “She’s my co-conspirator. She’s an art-therapist, translator, writer, photographer”. For six years he has opened his studio to their three children and to their friends, too, the group comprising Brad Pitt, Flea… Pitt even says that he’s at the studio all the time, describing himself as a squatter.

Redemptive clay

The final piece in the exhibition, which fills an entire room, addresses this subject. It shows an installation, which features a film. In it we see Thomas taking a great leap and hurling himself down into redemptive clay from the top of a stepladder.

 

 

 

And his other family – visitors, friends, musicians, artists and filmmakers – is never far away. “I’ve opened myself up,” he says.

Echo park

I visited his studio in 2016 in Los Angeles. After a grounding in the rules of art we drank a delicious cup of matcha tea. Then we really started talking, in his huge studio which was virtually deserted, located not far from Echo Park. The anxieties and the aesthetic responses were already there.

Turning point

What form will his next work take? A new turning point is inevitable in his oeuvre as an anxious artist.

Thomas Houseago spontaneously answered some quick questions about himself and his practice. He concluded gleefully: “I really like this game.”

The video interview

These are the subjects covered:

Picasso-Rodin-Gauguin-(Brancusi)/Van Gogh/Monumentality/Anxiety/Music/Death.

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Exhibition catalogue for Thomas Houseago. Almost Human. Editions Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris/ Paris musée. Bilingual: French, English.

 

Until 14 July. http://www.mam.paris.fr.

- avril 14, 2019

Thomas Houseago
Fabrice Hergott, Thomas Houseago, Brad Pitt
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