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LACMA Explores the Allure of Matter Ocula Report LACMA Explores the Allure of Matter 14 Jun 2019 : Jareh Das for Ocula

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (2 June 2019–5 January 2020) is an inter-generational show of 21 Chinese artists working from the 1980s to the present, including Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Lin Tianmiao, Song Dong, He Xiangyu, Yin Xiuzhen, and Ma Qiusha.Staged on Level 2 of LACMA's Renzo...

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Thomas J Price: Reframing Classical Sculpture Ocula Conversation Thomas J Price: Reframing Classical Sculpture

When the London-born artist Thomas J Price graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts in 2004, the school's college art prize was by no means his most notable accomplishment as an emerging artist. In 2001, Price presented his much-talked-about work Licked, a daring performance, later profiled on the BBC 4 television...

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Art Basel Lowdown: Shows to See Ocula Report Art Basel Lowdown: Shows to See 6 Jun 2019 : Tessa Moldan for Ocula

To coincide with Art Basel 2019, which opens to the public from 13 to 16 June, galleries and institutions across the city are presenting a range of stellar exhibitions. From Rebecca Horn at Museum Tinguely to Geumhyung Jeong at Kunsthalle Basel, here is a selection of what to see.William Kentridge, Dead Remus (2014–2016). Charcoal on found ledger...

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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 that 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
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Featured Artworks

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Couples by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork
Louise BourgeoisCouples, 2001 Lithograph on Arches paper
114 x 66 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris
UNTITLED by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork
Louise BourgeoisUNTITLED, 2004 Fabric
20 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 10 inches
Cheim & Read
Le Trani Episode by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork
Louise BourgeoisLe Trani Episode, 1971 Marble, 2 wood blocks
43.2 x 55.9 x 58.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Unconscious Landscape by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork
Louise BourgeoisUnconscious Landscape, 1967 (cast 1983) Bronze
30.5 x 62 x 59.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Cell XXIII (Portrait) by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork
Louise BourgeoisCell XXIII (Portrait), 2000 Steel, glass, wood and fabric
177.8 x 109.2 x 109.2 cm
Hauser & Wirth
The Good Mother by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork
Louise BourgeoisThe Good Mother, 1999 Steel, ceramic beads, wood, wire and cloth
35 x 20 x 20 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Hair (Red Bell Jar) by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork
Louise BourgeoisHair (Red Bell Jar), 2000 Drypoint and engraving on smooth, wove Yugen paper
38.4 x 30.4 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art
Do Not Abandon Me by Louise Bourgeois contemporary artwork
Louise BourgeoisDo Not Abandon Me, 2000 Drypoint on smooth, thin, wove Mingei paper
49.3 x 40.7 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Unconscious Landscape – Works from the Ursula Hauser Collection at Hauser & Wirth, Somerset
Open Now
25 May–8 September 2019 Group Exhibition Unconscious Landscape – Works from the Ursula Hauser Collection Hauser & Wirth, Somerset
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, For Mario at Tina Kim Gallery, New York
28 June–23 August 2019 Group Exhibition For Mario Tina Kim Gallery, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Louise Bourgeois, My Own Voice Wakes Me Up at Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong
26 March–11 May 2019 Louise Bourgeois My Own Voice Wakes Me Up Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong

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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...

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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...

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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...

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In Related Press

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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.

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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...

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.


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