Sometimes I bookmark art that I see in magazines, or online, for future exploration. Most of the time, what piqued my interest in passing, on closer inspection, doesn’t end up moving me but, when I dig deeper, and find more about an artist who caught my eye and I fall in love with what I see, it’s like happening on a wonderful book you had never heard of.
I had heard of Loiuse Bourgeois, of course, but, thinking about her work, I don’t think I could have come up with more than the giant spider that pops up, with regularity, on Instagram of all places. All of a sudden, a few weeks after I set aside an image of three bright red heads, I see Louise Bourgeois mentioned everywhere, probably because a monumental retrospective catalogue, containing all of her work, has just been published.
Born in France but exquisitely New Yorker, Bourgeois is often mentioned in the same breath as De Kooning, Rothko and Pollock although she never exhibited as part of a defined movement.
A sculpture and a painter, I find her work to be both sensual and dark, aggressive and feminine.
Her first field of study was mathematics, which might account for the precision in her work. “I got peace of mind, only through the study of rules nobody could change.” Subsequently she studied art at the Beaux Arts.
The daughter of a lifelong philanderer, her father’s infidelities proved to be an inspiration. While she never thought of her art as feminist (my work deals with problems that are pre-gender. For example, jealousy is not male or female) there is no denying her work is very feminine.
Married to an American, Bourgeois relocated to New York, where her career blossomed, with a first retrospective in 1982 at MOMA. She died in 2010 after having lived most of her life in her beloved Chelsea apartment.