Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Monday, 26 November 2007

I have been to hell and back. And let me tell you, it was wonderful**

Louise Bourgeois's first solo exhibition was staged at the MOMA in 1982, when she was 71. The Tate Modern gallery offered a major retrospective of her work in 2007 and Guggenheim of NYC repeated the same exhibition in its spiral setting in 2008, which I went to see for the second time as I happened to be downtown Manhattan. Bourgeois is an artistic phenomenon who has witnessed a whole century: she is now 96 and still works every day. She is still cute and ironic, composed and restless at the same time.

It is critically accepted that the axes to understand
Bourgeois's work lie in two main coordinates: feminism and psychoanalysis. As a humble novel to this complex theme, I direct any interest in exploring this topic to professor Mignon Nixon’s book a Fantastic Reality, an elegant theoretical essay about Melanie Klein’s child psychoanalysis read through the work of Bourgeois.

Originally French, Bourgeois moved to NYC with her art critic husband, after her mother's death, bringing with her a strong sense of guilt for having left her relatives and friends behind, together with the bitter memories of her infancy which are captured in this miniature: her family mansion above which a guillotine hangs down the cage's ceiling.

The *mamam* spider became a recurrent subject in her production as a homage to her mother, who she describes as a feminist, hard worker in the family tapestry business and yet victim of her husband’s infidelity. A spider can be threatening, but it is also a productive insect who diligently entwines webs with protecting and nurturing qualities: the web is, after all, a device to provide nutrition.

In “the Destruction of the Father”, Bourgeois manages to release all her tensions towards her paternal figure. although the effect on the viewer is grim and claustrophobic, this installation is for her the conceptualisation of her sorrow entangled with resentment towards her (long deceased) father - a sort of belated mourning process. In an interview, she reveals: “I felt much better when I completed it”.

The human size wooden sculptures (personages) represent her family components, and the towers are reminiscent of New York skyscrapers. For Bourgeois, they symbolise our human condition: skyscrapers sit one next to the other, elongate themselves towards the sky but never touch.

From the wooden sculpture Bourgeois moves to fluid materials which take the shape of blobs hinting at complex sexual organs.
The tactile sculpture below is the connubial merger of masculine and feminine genitals. It is as repulsive as attractive: you wish you could touch it or carry it under your arm like a hand-bag, as Bourgeois does so well.

Not always sex and sexuality are fun and free. The initiation to adult life can also be traumatic, and this possibility is filtered through the installation below, in which the child spies his/her parent's bedroom, a room which emanates mystery, eros and death, all at once.
Here a short and sweet interview to the cutest little woman she is today. 

I accidentally found out that she and her estate have just bought William Ivey Long's townhouse. Take a peek at it here

** One of Bourgeois' quotes engraved in one of her fabric works. As well as an artist, she was a great recorder of her life and feelings.

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