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Summary of Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois's work, which spanned most of the 20th century, was heavily influenced by traumatic psychological events from her childhood, particularly her father's infidelity. Bourgeois's often brooding and sexually explicit subject matter and her focus on three-dimensional form were rare for women artists at the time. Beginning in the 1970s, she hosted Sunday salons in her Chelsea apartment, where students and young artists would take their work to be critiqued by Bourgeois, who could be ruthless and referred to the gatherings, with characteristically dry humor, as "Sunday, bloody Sunday". Nevertheless, this accessibility and willingness to advise younger artists was exceptional for an established artist of such standing. Her influence on other artists since the 1970s looms large, but is manifested most strongly in feminist-inspired body art and in the development of installation art.
- Bourgeois's artwork is renowned for its highly personal thematic content involving the unconscious, sexual desire, and the body. These themes draw on events in her childhood for which she considered making art a therapeutic or cathartic process.
- Bourgeois transformed her experiences into a highly personal visual language through the use of mythological and archetypal imagery, adopting objects such as spirals, spiders, cages, medical tools, and sewn appendages to symbolize the feminine psyche, beauty, and psychological pain.
- Through the use of abstract form and a wide variety of media, Bourgeois dealt with notions of universal balance, playfully juxtaposing materials conventionally considered male or female. She would, for example, use rough or hard materials most strongly associated with masculinity to sculpt soft biomorphic forms suggestive of femininity.
Biography of Louise Bourgeois
Bourgeois' turbulent and traumatic experiences are interconnected with her later artistic explorations - as she once said: "I became an artist - to find a mode of survival."
Important Art by Louise Bourgeois
This series dealt with the dramatic changes in Bourgeois's private life in the early 1940s: marriage and domesticity, living in a foreign country, and mothering three children. Each drawing or painting in the series depicts a nude female figure whose head has been replaced by architectural forms that resemble houses. Bourgeois struggled to live up to her idealized memory of her own mother. These works suggest that she felt both trapped and exposed by the domestic responsibilities that consumed her life as she wrestled with finding her artistic voice.
The Blind Leading the Blind, constructed from pointed wooden planks attached to a flat beam, is an early sculpture in which Bourgeois used abstract forms to express personal feelings about her parents. The artist likens this piece to a table under which she spent time watching her parents' legs move across the room. Moreover, she recalls this memory as an unpleasant one, as she felt alienated from her parents and sought refuge under furniture.
Femme Volage is part of Bourgeois's Personnages series, made between 1945 and 1955. The series includes approximately 80 standing sculptures touching on the autobiographical themes that occupied Bourgeois throughout her career. Each piece resembled or recalled a person known to the artist. These abstract totemic figures were shown with no bases and were arranged in clusters that for Bourgeois referenced a reconstruction of the past. Femme Volage is a fractured piece made up of stacked wooden forms on a central rod that resembles a needle or spindle, tools that likely reference her mother's work as a weaver. This work also shows her early interest in the spiral form.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Louise Bourgeois
- Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern ArtBy Mignon Nixon
- Louise Bourgeois Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews, 1923-1997By Louise Bourgeois
- Louise BourgeoisOur PickBy Frances Morris, Marie-Laure Bernadac
- Louise BourgeoisOur PickBy Robert Storr, Paulo Herkenhoff
- Louise Bourgeois: Aller-RetourBy Louise Bourgeois, Gerald Matt
- Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric WorksBy Germano Celant
- Louise Bourgeois's 'Cells': Looking at Bourgeois through Irigaray's Gesturing Towards the MotherBy Katy Deepwell / n.paradoxa / May 1997
- Louise Bourgeois RetrospectiveBy Kelly Rand / Arts & Entertainment / February 26, 2009
- Sculptor Louise Bourgeois: A year of events celebrating her life and workBy Paul Stuart / World Socialist Web Site / January 4, 2009
- Louise Bourgeois, Influential Sculptor, Dies at 98Our PickBy Holland Cotter / The New York Times / May 31, 2010
- Louise Bourgeois obituaryBy Michael McNay / The Guardian / May 31, 2010