Thursday, January 26th at 8 PM, a crowd poured into the United Artist Theatre at the Ace Hotel. The crowd did not differ from your average metropolitan theater scene despite your un-average setting of being surrounded in a1920’s decadent movie mecca with incredibly breathtaking details throughout. Couples on dates, girlfriends/guy friends getting together, even some younger (under 20) skate kids rolled in with their crew. All for the Broad Museum’s Un-Private Collection series where different artists or collectors are paired with cultural leaders to talk about their art, lives, and really anything that comes to mind, as an attempt to bring art to the public.
“I don’t even really know what this is,” claimed a loud blonde girl in the audience prior to the show starting “I just know the Broad has big people. I saw that Flea was going to be here and just clicked purchase, not really sure who the other guy is…” The ‘other guy’ is of course Leeds-born artist Thomas Houseago and his counter part, Flea, L.A.-native, bassist, and co-founding member of mega band, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Both friends and fans of one another, Flea and Houseago, came to chat about Houseago’s current installation at the Broad, Creature.
On stage, the two sat and candidly spoke as if they were in their own living rooms whilst against a pitch black, sold out 1,600-seat theatre, while excessively whipping up cups of matcha green tea. Reflecting on their tough upbringings and how art was their way of escape. “I grew up around violence for as long as I could remember, my house was violent… and the streets of Leeds there was just so much violence but, it wasn’t weird… I grew up in a neighborhood called ‘Meanwood’ and I mean, that’s what the fuck it was,” Houseago said.
Looking at Houseago’s work you can see this ‘violent chaos,’ as he describes it, as a prominent influence in giant pieces of clay forming this physically powerful creature paired with this contrast of softness and detail. This duality in his work parallels much of Houseago’s life “I was really good at projecting violence on the exterior so I wouldn’t get beaten up really as a kid, meanwhile I’m like ‘Ok there is this guy called Picasso who’s pretty cool’.” Flea complimented Houseago’s memories with his own, conjuring up his way for dealing with his childhood violence late at night under a blanket in his room with his imaginary friends drifting off into their own world together. Later in life Flea discovered the extraordinary art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, and related to the chaos and beauty of his works claiming, “I wanted to make music that sounded like his paintings”.
The charming duo even shared secrets with the audience, which by this time was filling up the aisles of the lower level. Flea confessed during the shooting of the Red Hot Chili Peppers video ‘Breaking The Girl,’ “I was waiting to get the results of my AIDS test, and at that time in the ’90s you were scared to fucking death. I had to drive an hour out of the desert to get service. My friend, River Phoenix, was on set with me, god bless his heart, pulled the sweater over his head and said ‘I’ll do it!’ So it’s him, not me. Never said that before.”
Overall this was not a stuffy industry conversation. It was two interesting people discussing how they came to deal and succumb the deck of cards they have been dealt in life. It was inspiring, interesting, and genuine. Above all else, made you crave a cup of matcha.
Written by Britton Litow