Art Dept: Louise Bourgeois at Haus der Kunst
“Space does not exist; it is just a metaphor for the structure of our existence” – Louise Bourgeois
She lived in Brooklyn even before the New York City borough became a mecca for hipsters and monthly rent became unaffordable. In general Louise Joséphine Bourgeois, born in Paris in 1911, was known for having her very own vision of life and art. The sculptor, who was born into a middle-class family and had received a classical French education, marched to the beat of her own drum and soon gained fame and respect for her sculptures and installations, first in the New World and then internationally.
She was the first woman to exhibit her sculptures as interrelated elements within rooms that encourage visitors to become explorers and voyeurs. Until her death in 2010 in Chelsea she always stayed true to herself and her own view of things. When she had to vacate her Brooklyn studio in 2008, after 70 years in the Big Apple, Bourgeois integrated the studio’s spiral staircase in one of her last so-called cells, titled “The Last Climb”.
This spring and summer a large cross-section of her unique, bizarre, and disturbing work can be seen in the exhibition “Louise Bourgeois – structures of existence: the cells”, held at the Haus der Kunst in Munich through August 2.
Describing the essence of her work, Louise Bourgeois explained that she never forgave and never forgot. According to the artist, the origin of this creative resentfulness was the strained relationship with her father, who didn’t care much for her and let his daughter feel his lack of sympathy towards her at every occasion. “When a boy is born, the family is happy. When a girl is born, they make the best of it and learn to accept the fact”, the artist once said in an interview.
Even as a young girl art became her escape: at the dinner table she formed first small objects out of bread, which represented her father and which she then destroyed or simply ate. Her oeuvre contains many pieces referring to the destruction of a father figure, just as the spider, another frequent object in her work, represented her mother, who was a weaver by profession. Louise had an intimate relationship with her mother and, after her death, tried to commit suicide. Her efforts to come to terms with her childhood and youth through art continued after she emigrated to New York in 1938, together with her husband Robert Goldwater. The family soon grew, with the adoption of son Michel and the birth of their children Jean-Louis and Alain.
“The works of Louise Bourgoise get under your skin. To me, her use of red is particularly fascinating. No matter the context in which this color appears in her oeuvre, you almost physically feel life, blood and femininity” – Andrea Karg
The exhibition presents sculptures, drawings and of course the “cells”, a series of architectural spaces that were created over the course of twenty years and explore a whole range of feelings. Each cell is like a microcosm of its own: an enclosure that separates the inner world from the outside world. Within each cell Bourgeois composed theatre-like scenes with found objects, garments and fabrics, furniture and striking sculptures, all revolving around a desire to remember and at the same time to forget. “You have to tell your story and then forget about it. Forget and forgive. This liberates you,” Louise Bourgeois once outlined her intention.
Our conclusion: Never before have so many pieces of Bourgeois’s work been seen together in one place. Don’t miss it!
Photos: Peter Bellamy and Frédéric Delpech for The Easton Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015