Circling the sculpture, the imposing figure suddenly turns vulnerable and then imposing again; three dimensions collapse into planarity then appear solid once more, and a potential metaphor for masculine anxiety is sublimated into complex spatial play. «Itʹs a very potent thing,» Houseago has stated, «to start messing around with an image of a man or a woman. Itʹs a very powerful drug.» Still, I sense that the figure is, for Houseago, less an end in itself than a means of exploiting sculptureʹs inherent syntactic possibilities. His sculptural bodies—mostly male in recent years—transcribe skin, muscle and bone into the dualistic sculpting traditions of addition (the bricolage of modernity) and subtraction (the carving and chiseling of an ancient regime), often mediated by loose drawing in graphite or oil stick which the artist leaves on the work as evidence of his process.
Houseagoʹs Los Angeles show, which was dominated by Untitled (Red Man) (2008), a four meter-tall bronze colossus, revealed a deeply-encoded understanding of sculptureʹs modern past, from the hand-wrought, additive surfaces of Auguste Rodinʹs figures to Carl Andreʹs use of timber as a repetitive module for construction—the latter most often represented in Houseagoʹs pedestals, which rather than passive support systems, are often players as active as the figures they support. In this sense, like Andre before him, Houseago undoubtedly looks to Constantin Brancusiʹs symbiotic but tense interplay of object and base. This is exemplified, and advanced, most succinctly with Carved Head (Base) (2007), a gnarled head partially carved from a huge section of timber and cast in aluminum, in which figure and base are literally coterminous.