Thursday, November 09, 2017

New York: MoMA – Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait - Exhibition


Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait

Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait, until January 28, curated by Deborah Wye and Sewon Kang, explores the prints, books, related sculptures and the creative process of the celebrated sculptor Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010). Bourgeois’s printed oeuvre, a little-known aspect of her work, is vast in scope and comprises some 1,200 printed compositions, created primarily in the last two decades of her life but also at the beginning of her career, in the 1940s.

Photograph and copyright Manfredi Bellati

The spider—why the spider? Because
my best friend was my mother and she
was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing,
reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable,
neat, and as useful as a spider.”

 Louise Bourgeois – Spiders
Louise Bourgeois is perhaps best known for sculptures of spiders, ranging in size from a brooch of four inches to monumental outdoor pieces that rise to 30 feet. Long a motif in Symbolist art, the spider encompassed several meanings for Bourgeois, who cited it most frequently as a stand-in for her mother, a tapestry restorer by trade who impressed Bourgeois with her steadfast reliability and clever inventiveness. Yet Bourgeois also appreciated the spider in more general terms, as a protector against evil, pointing out that this crafty arachnid is known for devouring mosquitoes and thereby preventing disease.

Louise Bourgeois
at the printing press in the lower level of her home/studio on 20th  street, New York, 1995
Photograph by Mathias Johansson
The exhibition explores this celebrated artist’s prints and books, a little known but highly significant part of Bourgeois’s larger practice. Her copious production in these mediums—addressing themes that perennially occupied her, including memory, trauma, and the body—is examined within the context of related sculptures, drawings, and paintings. This investigation sheds light on Bourgeois’s creative process, which is uniquely and vividly apparent through the evolving states and variants of her prints; seeing these sequences unfold is akin to looking over the artist’s shoulder as she worked.

  My Inner Life (#5) - 2008
etching – gouache – watercolor –pencil – stitched text on fabric
My Inner Life (#3): Eugenie Grandet  - 2008
etching – gouache – watercolor pencil

My poetic license is to remove the arms, to remove the head, and then, if I want, to fetch them back.
Louise Bourgeois

The Puritan - Folio set no.3
engravings, with selective wiping gouache and watercolor additions

Untitled (The Wedges) – 1950
painted wood
Printed grids, biomorphic ink drawings, and geometric wood totems are found in her early years, organically shaped marble and plaster sculptures come later, and an outpouring of abstract drawings and prints fills her last decade.  For Bourgeois, abstraction was yet another tool for understanding and coping with her feelings, which were always the driving forces of her art. She used terms like “calming,” “caressing,” or “stabbing” to describe strokes, and her drawn lines and evocative shapes reflect shifting moods and perceived vulnerabilities.

Clothing exercise of memory...

It makes me explore the past...

how did I feel when I wore that...
Louise Bourgeois

By 2000, Bourgeois had turned to printing on old handkerchiefs, and then other fabrics. She also constructed books of fabric collages. Printing on fabric was a major preoccupation of Bourgeois’s later years and she highly valued her collaboration with seamstress Mercedes Katz and the various printers with whom she worked. The old fabrics she selected resonated with memories yet, on occasion, she ran out of material when making an edition and had to seek out matching fabrics. To this same end, she sometimes took advantage of digital possibilities for duplicating aging or fading effects. In contrast to her prints and books on paper, Bourgeois’s fabric works have a tactile presence that gives them a decidedly sculptural dimension.
Ode a L’Oubli – Ode to Forgetting – 2002
fabric illustrated book – 32 fabric collages – two-hand addition - lithographed texts and cover

Madeleine – 2000
drypoint – selective wiping – fabric

Spiral Woman – 2001
Drypoint – ink – pencil and gouache

The Couple (from portfoglio La Reparation) – 2003
drypoint – engraving – acquatint

You pile up associations the way you pile up bricks. Memory itself is a form of architecture.”
Louise Bourgeois

She said, “My skyscrapers reflect a human condition,” and here they became personifications of loneliness, alienation, anger, and hostility. At that time, Bourgeois also created her Femme Maison, depicting a female body topped by a house. It became a feminist icon and was later issued as a print.
Femme Maison – 1946-47
Oil – ink on linen


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