Issue Number: 96
Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton looks at the mother of modern sculptors
Louise Bourgeois talks of the ‘fantastic reality of sculpture’. Who would argue after seeing her 30-foot-tall spider in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2000? The artist has mined sculpture’s possibilities over seven decades of titanic production. Yet her work has only recently been seen by a wider public.
Now, Tate Modern stages her first major UK survey, charting the range of her sculpture, from hand-size pieces to large installations of traditional wood, bronze, plaster, alabaster and marble to steel, latex and mirrors.
The inclusion of her writing and prints illuminates the universal psychological depth and intellectual rigour of works such as her marble sculpture Eye to Eye, 1970.
Bourgeois’s art has the distinction of being both autobiographical and a force-field of the trajectories of twentieth-century art; with her move from France to the US in 1938 she brought the art of the French underground and became a member of the American Abstract Artists Group, who responded to the surrealist language of émigré artists from Europe.
She developed a fierce and perverse independent focus on figuration with intermittent success for which she was grateful: ‘I worked in peace for 40 years’.
Her champion, the critic Lucy Lippard wrote of the ‘poles of tenacity and vulnerability’ in her raw sensuality and darkness. Bourgeois’s art is not afraid to confront human experience. The artist describes her legendary performance A Banquet/A Fashion Show of Body Parts, 1978, when she wore a latex, many-breasted body like that of Diana of Ephesus, as ‘all a joke...a comment on the sexes because they are so mixed up today. What more is there to say? The humour is black. Despair is always black.’
Louise Bourgeois, Tate Modern, London (020 7887 8888; www.tate.org.uk/modern), 11 Oct–20 Jan 2008; Louise Bourgeois, Hauser and Wirth Colnaghi, London (020 7287 2300; www.ghw.ch), 10 Oct–17 Nov