Artist Research – Louise Bourgeois @ Tate Modern

October 30, 2016 in review

Louise Bourgeois @ Tate Modern

Located at the Tate Modern is the Artist room for Louise Bourgeois, the room contains works created by Bourgeois towards the end of her life with a  few of her earlier works on display also. Bourgeois worked with the concepts of family, womanhood and belonging, working most frequently with sculpture as we’ll as painting; the collection of her work at the Bourgeois shows us the true breadth and power of her practice.

Located in the cathedral like new building at the Tate Modern, Bourgeois’s works have been given pride of place in one of the many new spaces available to show work at the new Tate Modern. On going into the Bourgeois room you enter a small, initial chamber which houses one of her first paintings created when she moved to New York, a glass cabinet which houses a felt torso covered in pink beret’s attached by pins to a spool of blue thread and above the entrance you see one of Bourgeois’s spiders. This first room gives the viewer a sense of what it was Bourgeois aimed to examine within her practice. The ideas surrounding the female body and the cultural and social pressures that have been placed upon them as people to get them to the point where they just feel like motionless objects trapped in a glass cage. Her painting, one of her more traditional works in the respect that its not depicting an abstracted body like many of her other paintings, but shows the New York landscape being invaded by large, violent waves of a woman hair. Many have placed Bourgeois as the female in the painting with her three children topping a skyscraper in the background. The spider hanging above the door represents fear and trauma which Bourgeois dealt with in much of her work. The fact that this sider is only visible as you exit the exhibition is important, it mimics the sense of inevitability that comes with life, death is always at the end of it.

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When entering the main gallery space you are immediately drawn to the large spider that stands in the middle of the space. Titled ‘Spider’ (1994) it looms over you like a burden on your shoulders. The piece makes you confront what large demons may be in your life, by acknowledging our fears it makes it easier to understand them. Bourgeois’s spiders come from a place that we as a society can understand, in our collective consciousness we know spiders can be poisonous, they’ve been villains in films, they terrify small children. She uses these pre-conceived notions of spiders to examine our society. This spider for instance has an egg sack, but the viewer doesn’t see this initially, they’re struck by the size of the sculpture and the thin, outstretched limbs. The fact that this spider is a mother is overlooked and seen as unimportant. In many of Bourgeois’s works she tries to show the viewer the truth about themselves and the world we live in, this spider is no different. This work deals with the concept of motherhood, of isolation, rejection and the strength of a mother to overcome prejudice.

Spider

Spider

As you walk through the exhibition you see large imposing sculptures such as ‘Cell XIV (Portrait)’ (2000), ‘Cell (Eyes and Mirrors)’ (1989-93) or one of the many hanging, woven human forms such as ‘Legs’ (2001). There is also a side room full of smaller sculptures which are held behind glass, some made from bronze and others fabrics such as wool and netting.

Cell XIV (Portrait)

Cell XIV (Portrait)

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Side Room

Side Room

Legs

Legs

The most interesting piece in the exhibition for me was the series of 16 etchings with mixed media on paper titled ’À L’Infini’ (2008–9). The work consists of 16 prints of the same image which Bourgeois then worked onto with other materials. ’À L’Infini’  translates to ‘into infinity’, within the context of the work we could understand this as the transition form life to death. The use of the colour red with the two parallel lines is reminiscent of arteries or internal organs. Within some of the images Bourgeois has added human forms tangled in between the parallel lines and abstracted parts of the human anatomy such as the penis and vagina, providing us with further evidence that the work is talking about the beginning and end of life; how life is hardship, that no one makes it through life without any scars. Red is present in this work, as it is in most of Bourgeois’s works on paper. There is no one path through the 16 images and each image seems to be foreign to the one next to it, yet they all seem to create a sense or narrative when there is none. Bourgeois manages to show us a portrayal of what life may be and what she knows it is to her.

À L’Infini

À L’Infini

À L’Infini

À L’Infini

À L’Infini (Detail)

À L’Infini (Detail)

À L’Infini (Detail)

À L’Infini (Detail)

À L’Infini (Detail)

À L’Infini (Detail)

À L’Infini (Detail)

À L’Infini (Detail)

The Louise Bourgeois room at the Tate Modern is in my opinion a well rounded collection of the artists work and allows the viewer insight into the motives behind the artists practice. As my friend that viewed the exhibition with me said, “I think she would’ve approved of it”. In my humble opinion, I think I can agree with her on that.

10am is When You Come to Me

10am is When You Come to Me

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