The head is what we look out of. Heads are what ideas float from, like the electric pulses that animate the body. Upon the sculptures of Thomas Houseago, heads are often bulbous and ragged or flatly fiendish things, brutally bashed-up balls of plaster with a couple of holes poked in. Often they’re absent. Amy Bessone’s painted craniums are fashioned with broad lyrical swipes, their curves highlighted with glancing off-white glimmers in reference to the porcelain figures that often serve as her models. One is cautiously reminded of an oft-repeated episode from the canon of modern art, wherein Picasso shoplifts African artifacts from the Louvre and appropriates what he saw as an oblique and enchantingly primitive style of flashing and forging the human face. It’s likely that the artists concurrently realize, re-purpose and reject the difficulties of colonial primitivism, their masked faces tell of the pleasure of abstracted anthropomorphism but also the shame of its lineage.
The body undulates and bulges, it’s twisted, flatulent and flabby. The physicality of Houseago and Bessones’ figural depictions seems ultimately drawn from the complexion of their materials. The pairing of their works at Rennie Collection allows us to see their unique but similar alchemistic translations; Bessone renders sculpture flat; laboriously molded, glazed, precious forms are reinterpreted as thin blushes of translucent paint swaddled across expansive canvases. Various plains and slabs of Houseago’s stabile constructions are covered in drawings, frenetically sketched lines serve to propel the staggering and squatting monoliths.
Limbs are for touching and for feeling. The frozen-wild gesticulations of each artists figures do a lot more emoting then articulating. The installation at Rennie Collection allows for the immediacy of Bessones’ tableaus of high hedonism to hover slightly over Houseago’s lurching homunculi, facilitating ingestion of the group as a whole. It feels as though the cocktail of pleasure, shame, horror and desire provoked by this exhibit is from a recipe triumphantly plucked from Picasso’s sticky fingers.
- Aaron Carpenter
Installation images courtesy of http://www.artaftermoney.com/