Thomas Houseago’s commission Masks (Pentagon) was on view on the plaza April 28 – June 24, 2015. Free and open to the public, the exhibit was organized by Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer.
Designed specifically for Rockefeller Plaza, Masks (Pentagon) consists of five masks ranging in height from 14.5 to 16.5 feet, each of which reflects a different approach to the stylized representation of the human face, from the clearly recognizable to the highly abstracted. As each colossal face looked out towards the surrounding cityscape, the spaces between them became “doorways” that gave access to an interior “room”. From inside, the mask’s eyes created windows that framed views of the landscape and skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan.
The five masks, which were cast from clay in industrial-strength synthetic plaster, stand on a stepped base made from massive beams of unfinished redwood. The back of each element of the sculpture reveals the artists method of construction – a grid-like armature of rebar inlaid with hemp and plaster. The resulting five-sided form might be compared to that of an archaic temple, the ritual function of which has been lost in time.
“In this piece I wanted to bring the activity and the feel of the studio into public space as an experience. The public gets to “see” the work both from the outside as an image but then also from the inside as an insight into its construction. It becomes a kind of retreat from the city but also a porous viewing space. The public becomes part of the experience of looking and also an integral part of the work,” said artist Thomas Houseago.