The moon is the mother of pathos and pity.
When, at the wearier end of November,
Her old light moves along the branches,
Feebly, slowly, depending upon them…
-Wallace Stevens

Hauser & Wirth’s new installation by Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room,” is immediately arresting, drawing us into a 40,000 square-foot, sky-lit hangar. Reminiscent of visual labyrinths like China’s Temple of the Moon, Moun Room’s skeletal appearance at once entices and repels, which makes the structure’s single doorway and that which lies inside all the more appealing.
The installation is covered in textured hemp fiber, which reveals the structure beneath, along with a spectrum of sienna hues from rusting steel supports underneath. This harsh exterior juxtaposes the delicately cracking and smooth, fleshy monochrome of the interior’s crescent-forms, reliefs, and circular windows. Made by casting plaster from an initial clay model, it is an extremely delicate sculpture despite its hulking size. Houseago one day wants to cast “Moun Room” in bronze.

“Moun Room” is simultaneously recognizable and strange, riddled with art historical references, most notably layered plaster relief works by Lee Bontecou and Jay Defeo. It recalls 1960s New York Minimalism and Gordon Matta-Clark’s oeuvre, whose cuts in abandoned buildings created screens to reveal the building’s interior. In contrast to Matta-Clark, however, Houseago’s are not cuts in panels, but rather carefully crafted openings.

Once inside “Moun Room”, we are guided along a path to its core. In the central chamber, two sets of 12-foot monolithic disks, reminiscent of Stonehenge, split down the center and open into an orifice, recalling a prehistoric celestial calendar. Our mind cannot help but think of architectural masterpieces with circular doorways: Carlo Scarpa’s Brion Cemetery or I. M. Pei‘s National Gallery. “Moun Room” is a place for spirits to haunt.

“Moun Room” takes its name from blending the word “moon” with the name of his girlfriend, Muna El Fituri, to whom the piece is dedicated. It is a hopeful piece about new possibilities—a departure from the practice of figural sculpture that Houseago is known for, and marks a new beginning that brings spiritualism to American minimalism.

Thomas Houseago’s “Moun Room” is on view through January 17, 2015, at Hauser & Wirth.

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