Louise Bourgeois at the MoMa: An Unfolding Portrait

Ginger Rudolph

A must-see retrospective of the famous French artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois in New York.

The French artist and celebrated sculptor Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) had her first real retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) at the age of 71. Bourgeois worked well into her 90s, leaving behind a body of work spanning over 70 years.

Louise Bourgeois, Spider.

Art lovers might best be familiar with her huge bronze and steel spider sculptures that loom high above on delicate spindly legs. Or her Cell enclosures, emotional retreats situated within various structures, housing collections of objects, tapestries and sculptural forms to evoke safe spaces for anxieties and fears.

A celebration of her life’s work, comes back to New York City, back to MoMA in the new exhibit, Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait.

Visitors will see the little-known aspects of Bourgeois’ artistic works before she turned to sculpture. Organizer Deborah Wye digs deeper into Bourgeois’ earlier years, juxtaposing rarely seen prints and illustrated books with thematic groupings of sculptures, drawings, and paintings, “exploring motifs of architecture, the body, and nature, as well as investigations of abstraction.”

The prize of the show sit’s in the museum’s Marron Atrium: Spider, one of the series that Bourgeois created over the last two decades of her career, and the only one of Bourgeois’ works that brings together the spider and cell structure.

Nearly 15 feet tall, the steel spider sculpture crouches over a Cell, the door of its caged barrier left slightly ajar. Inside, the upholstery of a chair seems to unfold like a flower, while another tapestry, less vivid and more worn, covers sections of the cell, signifying repair and self-restoration through art.

Another sector of the exhibition showcases paintings that layout Bourgeois’ affinity for the opposite sex.

Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois, The Couple.

The audience also can explore Bourgeois’ time as a printmaker, finding the Spider motif beginnings sketched out on paper before becoming featured heavily in her sculpture work. Even her familiar use of the spiral as a symbol for a twisting and strangling of emotion flows in and out of her early repertoire.

A romanticized version is being exhibited in the museum Dia in Beacon, NY. The Couple is an unfiltered, inherently, freer manner of speech.

Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois, Spiral Woman.

In, An Unfolding Portrait, MoMA examines an earlier example of that imagery controlling the relationship of this talk in Spiral Woman.

This study is truly Bourgeois’ last act, her vocabulary of imagery — a lifetime of abstracted emotion in context.

Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait runs at MoMA until January 28, 2018. Throughout the year, you can see her works in the museum Dia in Beacon, NY and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, Mass.  ■

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