Artist: Louise Bourgeois
Dimension: 40.6 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm
Technique: Sculpture (Fabric and stainless steel)
About the Artist
Born in Paris in 1911, Louise Bourgeois was raised by parents who ran a tapestry restoration business. A gifted student, she also helped out in the workshop by drawing missing elements in the scenes depicted on the tapestries. During this time, her father carried on an affair with Sadie Gordon Richmond, the English tutor who lived in the family house. This deeply troubling—and ultimately defining—betrayal remained a vivid memory for Bourgeois for the rest of her life. Later, she would study mathematics before eventually turning to art. She met Robert Goldwater, an American art historian, in Paris and they married and moved to New York in 1938. The couple raised three sons.
Early on, Bourgeois focused on painting and printmaking, turning to sculpture only in the later 1940s. However, by the 1950s and early 1960s, there are gaps in her production as she became immersed in psychoanalysis. Then, in 1964, for an exhibition after a long hiatus, Bourgeois presented strange, organically shaped plaster sculptures that contrasted dramatically with the totemic wood pieces she had exhibited earlier. But alternating between forms, materials, and scale, and veering between figuration and abstraction became a basic part of Bourgeois’s vision.
Bourgeois’s idiosyncratic approach found few champions in the years when formal issues dominated art world thinking. But by the 1970s and 1980s, the focus had shifted to the examination of various kinds of imagery and content. In 1982, at 70 years old, Bourgeois finally took center stage with a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art. After that, she was filled with new confidence and forged ahead, creating monumental spiders, eerie room-sized “Cells,” evocative figures often hanging from wires, and a range of fabric works fashioned from her old clothes. All the while she constantly made drawings on paper, day and night, and also returned to printmaking. Art was her tool for coping; it was an exorcism. As she put it, “Art is a guarantee of sanity.” Bourgeois died in New York in 2010, at the age of 98.
Text taken from the Moma’s website.
What does this work say (to me)?
My first memory of a piece by Louise Bourgeois is her famous spider “Maman” exhibited at the Tate Modern, Turbine hall.
It is a fascinating piece in terms of scale, presence and creation (design is not the right word in this case).
Having seen more of her sculptures I always wondered what was that that links all of them regardless if they are made of metal or textiles.
One possible answer came to my mind when I saw this small head made of fabric:
Louise Bourgeois has the ability to understand that part of our brain where the feelings of fear, strangeness, alienation exist and she gave to those feelings a shape so we take a look at them, at a fraction of them which helps us to realize somehow that they represent something we already know not terrifying enough so we can face it but grotesque enough to let us know that what we are seeing comes from a place where beauty is not present, a dark place within us.
Another aspect of her work that intrigues me is that these “portraits” have an aesthetic appeal on them, one cannot certainly describe them as beautiful but at the same time one cannot stop being attracted by them, to their human qualities or references, to the careful work with the fabric that gives shape to the head, with the way the pattern is arranged so it becomes muscle and decoration at the same time.
It is in this complex and sort of hermetic representation of human condition where her work rotates around and lives.
A body of work that has a lot to do with expressionism, here represented in a more brutal, minimal way.
In what Room to place it?
I would place it in any room but the bedroom, otherwise it is like you are sharing your room with a stranger that has not being invited and who, even worse, has nothing positive to say.
I would like to think of this piece not in a plinth or pedestal but in a niche in a wall so it is found and not seen.