Hauser & Wirth’s Chelsea premises are predicated on spectacle. In a warehouse that for years was home to skating dance venue Roxy (and reported last spring as threatened with demolition for yet more condominiums) the gallery has seen several appropriately over the top sculptural extravaganzas, including shows reviewed at artcritical of Matthew Day Jackson and Monika Sosnowska. To this critic’s eye, no work has made more exquisite use of the space as Thomas Houseago’s enigmatic, at once inviting and aloof Moun Room, on view through this weekend. Tucked into one corner of the humungous 18th Street expanse, this robust white structure, made of a material called Tuf-Cal with iron rebars and hemp, imparts ambivalent responses, feeling at once monumental and precious, timeless and transient, matter of fact and sacred. Surfaces recall the hulk of a container ship on one side and some sort of decaying art deco pleasure dome on the other. Walls are punctured by an ascending scale of crescent-shaped apertures indicative perhaps of phases of the moon; openings are sometimes big enough to traverse, other times not. Recalling the biblical tabernacle, Moun Room lures visitors through two corridor-like courtyards into an inner sanctum. This architectural foray is quite the departure for the LA-based Brit who has honed his reputation on a goofy, edgy, angsty figuration that fuses a very contemporary sculptural provisionalism with a throwback to early modernist vitalism. At once awe-inspiring and gently enveloping, Moun Room is a place of both intimacy and intimations of the sublime. DAVID COHEN
Thomas Houseago, Moun Room, 2013–2014. Tuf-Cal, hemp, iron rebar, 36 x 45-1/2 x 12 feet. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth
On view through January 17, 2015. 511 West 18th Street at 10th Avenue.