More coverage of Ballroom alumnus Thomas Houseago’s epic exhibition at Storm King from 032c. The excellent “Coming into Form” interview by Cornelius Tittel covers lots of ground, including Houseago’s youth spent brawling in pubs and listening to Joy Division and this excerpt about his landing in Los Angeles …
“You say L.A. saved you.
Yes, to arrive in Los Angeles with nothing but a few friends – it either works or it doesn’t. And it worked. I mean it was tough. I was doing construction work and we had our daughter on Medi-Cal – all that American immigrant stuff!
What is that?
If you arrive in California and your wife is pregnant and you don’t have health insurance, they will help you have your baby, but the process is hyper-brutal. You are given a counselor, because normally if you have just arrived in America and don’t have insurance, you are an immigrant from El Salvador or wherever. I remember in our case they checked us for guns before we could meet our counselor. They told us, “We wanna make sure your baby doesn’t die and your wife doesn’t die, et cetera, et cetera.” You are humiliated and at the same time liberated in an absurd way. But, you know, as soon as we arrived it all started to make sense. I met other artists I could relate to. There was no dogma, you’re never gonna hear John Baldessari saying that one kind of art is better than another, or that a certain artist should not be shown. Like Paul McCarthy, I met him really early and he was always like: “Go for it!” Mike Kelly and Paul really set up a very free, strange, dynamic, exciting atmosphere for younger artists to enter. L.A. is a frontier town with a fantastic wealth of energy and that’s what really saved me.”