Ocula MagazineContentsView All
Featured ContentView All
Art Basel in Hong Kong: Exhibitions to See Ocula Report Art Basel in Hong Kong: Exhibitions to See 23 Mar 2019 : Tessa Moldan for Ocula

For those visiting during Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019), the smell of fresh paint may still be in the air at the latest heritage conservation project, The Mills, which opened on 16 March to encompass the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles (CHAT), joining the ranks with ex-prison complex Tai Kwun, along with Eaton HK—a retro...

Read More
Firenze Lai Ocula Conversation Firenze Lai

Firenze Lai says that she knows her studio of a few hundred square feet intimately; from the textures of its surfaces to the way the breeze blows into the room. The spaces depicted in her paintings are equally intimate. When curators seem to be at a loss for words to discuss troubled times, fear of containment, and the feeling of being completely...

Read More
Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber Ocula Report Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber 15 Mar 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...

Read More

Louise Bourgeois

(1911 - 2010), France

Once asserting that 'art is a guaranty of sanity', Louise Bourgeois considered art-making a cathartic process. Over her 80-year career, the French artist tackled themes of sexuality, desire, gender and the unconscious through prints, paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations. While she came to fame only during her 70s, she worked well into her 90s and has been hugely influential on subsequent generations of artists.

Influenced by psychoanalysis, Bourgeois' works are laden with her personal traumas. Born to a family of antique dealers in Paris in 1911 and having witnessed her mother's eventually fatal illness and father's infidelity at an early age, Bourgeois' childhood anxieties permeated her practice. Exemplary of this and made of several wooden planks resembling table legs, the formative sculpture The Blind Leading the Blind (1949) arose from Bourgeois' early memories of watching her parents while hiding beneath furniture.

Bourgeois studied art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Ecole du Louvre in Paris and in artists' studios in Montmartre and Montparnasse. Upon marrying the art historian Robert Goldwater in 1938, she moved to New York City, enrolled in the Art Students League and began making sculptures from wood found on her apartment building's roof. The body and feminism were revealed as concerns in these early works; made in response to her new role as wife and mother in America, the 1946–7 series of drawings and paintings 'Femme Maison', for example, depicts nude female bodies with their heads replaced by houses, signifying the stifling effects of domesticity.

Later sculptures made of wood, marble, bronze, plaster and latex are overtly sexual. The bronze and gold hanging sculpture Janus Fleuri (1968), for example, resembles a flaccid double-headed phallus, while the hanging male genitalia in the latex-and-plaster sculpture Filette (Sweeter Version) (1968–99) similarly points to Bourgeois' conception of masculinity as innately vulnerable. On the other hand, constructed from fabric, marble, steel, wood and glass, the sculpture Couple (2003) depicts the form of an embracing couple upon an oval base and overlain with a sheet of translucent pink fabric, resulting in an overall composition that resembles the labia. Similarly concerned with the female body, the 1991 rubber wall-relief Mamelles depicts 16 breasts arranged in a horizontal formation akin to a classical frieze; in 2001, the work was cast by Tate in fleshy, pink rubber—a material which emphasised its eroticism.

Across sculpture, painting and printmaking, such bulbous forms are a common motif in Bourgeois' works and often resemble egg sacs, phalluses, breasts and testicles. The white marble sculpture Cumul I (1968) depicts several spherical forms in various states of concealment under a sheet, while Bourgeois' installation The Destruction of the Father (1974) saw the artist cover a dining table with round, fleshy latex and plaster forms. Constructed as a way of expressing her anger over her father, the work is bathed in light emitted from red bulbs and laden with violence and resentment.

Hands too appear often in Bourgeois' work, representing touch, femininity and care. The bronze-cast sculpture Nature Study (1986) takes the form of a delicate, feminine-looking hand tied together with a small female figure by a tubular coil. Installed at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, the large-scale sculpture The Welcoming Hands (1996) depicts intertwined hands, cast in bronze and laid on five granite stones. While their touches are tender, the appendages are also severed at the forearms, suggesting disembodiment or loss. Other representations of the body were less literal but equally personal; the approximately 80 anthropomorphic, totem-like sculptures made of stacked wood that comprise the 'Personnages' series (1945-55), for example, were each inspired by a person Bourgeois knew.

After moving her studio from her Chelsea townhouse to a larger Brooklyn space in 1980, Bourgeois was free to create larger sculptures. It was there that she embarked on series of large-scale installation works that she called 'Cells', so named for their connotations of imprisonment and living organisms. Defying easy categorisation, these works have been described by art historian Julienne Lorz as sitting 'between a museal panorama, a theater set, an environment or installation'. Most often enclosed by wire cages or wood, 'Cells' such as Cell (The Last Climb) (2008) or Red Room (Child) (1994) contain sculptures and readymade objects such as spindles, needles and threads to stand in as abstract visual representations of traumas and bodily anxieties. Cell XXVI (2003), for example, comprises a large cage in which a bulbous form with human legs dangles in front of a mirror. Similarly, Cell XXV (The view of the world of the jealous wife) (2001) sees two ladies' dresses imprisoned in a cell—perhaps an oblique reference to her father's affair with the artist's childhood au pair and the pain inflicted on Bourgeois' sick mother.

It wasn't until 1994 that Bourgeois began the works for which she is perhaps best known: large-scale sculptures of spiders known as 'Mamans'. While she had been drawing the insects since at least the mid-1940s, it took 50 years for the motif to be realised as a metaphor for the mother figure. Instead of frightening or repulsive, Bourgeois considered spiders protective as they eat mosquitos and prevent disease. Furthermore, the webs the actual insects weave recalled Bourgeois own mother's work with tapestries before her premature death. These monumental spiders, which viewers can walk around and below, have been installed at the Brooklyn Museum, Tate Modern's Turbine Hall and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Other notable public artworks include the fountain Father and Son (2005), installed at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. Comprising larger-than-life sculptures of a man and boy, the fountain's figures are obscured from one another as the water rises and falls—a direct reference to the troubled parent-child relationship that characterises much of Bourgeois' output.

Bourgeois' first museum retrospective was held in 1982 at The Museum of Modern Art in New York when the artist was 70. Since then, and following her death in New York at the age of 98, her work has been exhibited extensively in international institutions.

Ocula | 2019
Read More

Featured Artworks

View All (42)
Untitled by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork Louise BourgeoisUntitled, 2001 Fabric and stainless steel
182.9 x 30.5 x 25.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth
UNTITLED by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork Louise BourgeoisUNTITLED, 2005 Fabric
61 x 78.7 cm
Cheim & Read
UNTITLED by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork Louise BourgeoisUNTITLED, 2004 Watercolour and pencil on paper
68.6 x 101.6 cm
Xavier Hufkens
UNTITLED by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork Louise BourgeoisUNTITLED, 2001 Pink fabric and aluminium
Cheim & Read
Topiary : The Art of Improving Nature by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork Louise BourgeoisTopiary : The Art of Improving Nature suite of nine copperplate etchings with drypoint and aquatint, printed in color on Magnani Incisione paper, and one colophon page, in silk covered portfolio
99.7 x 70.5 cm
Xavier Hufkens
Alone and together by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork Louise BourgeoisAlone and together, 2007 gouache on paper
59.7 x 90.8 cm
Xavier Hufkens

Recent Exhibitions

View All (9)
Contemporary art exhibition, Louise Bourgeois, Papillons Noirs at Hauser & Wirth, St. Moritz
Closed
28 December 2018–10 February 2019 Louise Bourgeois Papillons Noirs Hauser & Wirth, St. Moritz
Contemporary art exhibition, Louise Bourgeois, Louise Bourgeois: Spiral at Cheim & Read, New York
Closed
8 November–22 December 2018 Louise Bourgeois Louise Bourgeois: Spiral Cheim & Read, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art at David Zwirner, New York
Closed
12 September–27 October 2018 Group Exhibition Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art David Zwirner, 20th Street, New York

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Art Basel in Hong Kong: Exhibitions to See Ocula Report Art Basel in Hong Kong: Exhibitions to See 23 Mar 2019 : Tessa Moldan for Ocula

For those visiting during Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019), the smell of fresh paint may still be in the air at the latest heritage conservation project, The Mills, which opened on 16 March to encompass the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles (CHAT), joining the ranks with ex-prison complex Tai Kwun, along with Eaton HK—a retro...

Read More
Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown Ocula Report Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown 2 Nov 2018 : Sam Gaskin for Ocula

There is no official Shanghai Art Week, but the term has nevertheless entered the lexicon of the city's contemporary art community. It's especially apt this year, with the firmly established West Bund Art Fair (8–11 November 2018) and Art021 (9–11 November 2018) taking place the same week that the 12th Shanghai Biennale opens at the Power Station...

Read More
Art Basil [sic] Ocula Report Art Basil [sic] 31 Mar 2016 : Diana d'Arenberg for Ocula

I was Brainwashed the Friday before Art Basel Hong Kong kicked off. French street artist, Mr. Brainwash, was holding court—to an audience full of Hong Kong society types, complete with bodyguards, and media—with a spray can in a graffiti decorated shell-space in Lan Kwai Fong. It was one of several property developer-artist...

Read More

In Related Press

View All (32)
Spiraling into Louise Bourgeois’ Inner Realm Related Press Spiraling into Louise Bourgeois’ Inner Realm Galerie Magazine : 14 December 2018

Celebrated for her giant sculptural spiders, stitched together fabric figures and psychologically charged cell installations, Louise Bourgeois continually found inspiration for her artwork in her troubled childhood. Although most people associate the revered artist, who died in 2010 at 98, with figuration, there was another, more formal side to her...

Read More
How Louise Bourgeois Investigated the Power of Materials Related Press How Louise Bourgeois Investigated the Power of Materials Frieze : 26 November 2018

I have always liked that Louise Bourgeois was born on Christmas Day. Something about this feels exactly right. And, while the artist's birthday might seem a trivial detail, infrequently cited in scholarly discussions on her complex life, The Eternal Thread, her first large-scale museum exhibition in China, is nothing less than a gift – and a...

Read More
A Timely Remembrance For Witch Hunts Of The Past by Louise Bourgeois and Peter Zumthor Related Press A Timely Remembrance For Witch Hunts Of The Past by Louise Bourgeois and Peter Zumthor Hyperallergic : 26 October 2018

VARDØ, Norway — It was but weeks ago that US Senator Lindsey Graham responded with a sneer to a protestor requesting then Supreme Court Justice nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, take a polygraph test: 'why don't we dunk him in water and see if he floats?' The figure of the hunted witch has been evoked often in 2018, the year I finally realized a...

Read More
Louise Bourgeois’s “The Empty House” Related Press Louise Bourgeois’s “The Empty House” Art Agenda : 5 July 2018

It's intimidating to review the work of an artist the stature of Louise Bourgeois, about whom so much has been written, to whom so much has been ascribed. Bourgeois's life spanned nearly the entire twentieth century and helped redefine what a (feminist) artistic practice can be, how art can intertwine with life.

Read More

In Related Video

Louise Bourgeois, The Three Graces, 1947 Related Video & Audio Louise Bourgeois, The Three Graces, 1947 Hauser & Wirth : 4 June 2018

‘Art was for Louise a system of self-knowledge ... of discharging tensions and anxieties, of exorcising early traumas.’Philip Larratt-Smith discusses Louise Bourgeois’s sculpture The Three Graces (1947), included in Hauser & Wirth’s presentation at Art Basel. A poignant example from the artist’s seminal series of iconic works entitled...

More
Louise Bourgeois. The Red Sky, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Related Video & Audio Louise Bourgeois. The Red Sky, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Hauser & Wirth : 17 February 2018

Louise Bourgeois. The Red Sky is an intimate presentation of never before exhibited works on paper from the final years of the artist’s life, created between 2007 and 2009, with words and images mining Bourgeois’s central themes of memory, trauma, nature, and the body.

More

3 new artworks by Louise Bourgeois have recently been added to Ocula. Sign up to be among the first to know when new works become available.

WeChat

Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.

iCal GoogleYahooOutlook