‘Moun Room’—A Question of Simple Geometry

On view until January 17, 2015 at 
Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th Street
New York

by Lara Saget

Thomas Houseago Moun Room

Moun Room. Digital Image. Wallpaper. Wallpaper, 2014. Web. 12 Dec 2014.

Thomas Houseago’s ‘Moun Room,’ on view at Hauser & Wirth’s downtown New York City location, is an immersive environment, inviting human participation while structurally echoing human, celestial, and architectural figuration. The installation itself measures approximately 37 feet by 45 feet wide, and 12 feet tall. ‘Moun Room’ is comprised of three white rectangular chambers contained within one another.  The walls are connected panels made of tuf-cal plaster linked together with iron re-bar.

Although ‘Moun Room’ is largely understood as a departure from Houseago’s more figurative works, the human figure functions as the internal bones of the installation. The backsides of the panels, which make up the walls, are ribbed bearing a clear resemblance to human ribs. Like the human ribs protect the vital organs, these externally ribbed walls guard the internal space. Furthermore, the white fibrous nature of the plaster and the specific articulations of the jointed panels mimic the nature of ossified bone. The rusting of the re-bar insinuates a decay or internal life process. Houseago’s use of anatomical visual vocabulary coupled with the reduction to basic geometric forms create a maze through which the viewer can experience the body in living space.

This space can simultaneously be understood as celestial terrain. Houseago cuts geometric shapes from the panel walls utilizing bas-relief to mimic the lunar phase of the moon. The orifices vary in size, some large enough for the viewer to walk through and others function visually, shifting the experience. Houseago additionally incorporates spherical sculptural positives, which playfully bounce to form the interior walls.

Houseago asserts that ‘Moun Room’ is “a visual maze with a spiritual dimension.” The installation does indeed offer a meditation upon movement and corporeal physicality as the viewer is forced to consider how to move around the curious optical and physical maze. However, given both the celestial and bodily connections—why did Houseago decide to create a rectangular cage-like maze? Although the spherical language is implicit within the bas-reliefs and sculptural positives, the viewer is moving through a series of white squares. While the squares are not box-like in geometry, the conceptual link to the white box is maintained. There is no lid to Houseago’s ‘Moun Room,’ leaving the ceiling of Hauser & Wirth exposed. While the installation has been installed in alternate spaces in which the bare top does not alter the viewing experience in the same way, inside of Hauser & Wirth, the simple box-like geometry of the space leaves ample room for the viewer to escape and return.

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