MoMA’s Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait

louise-bourgeois-an-unfolding-portrait-1.gifIn my enthusiasm to respond to an invitation to visit MoMA’s new Louise Bourgeois show in early hours last month, I didn’t check the fine print. I expected to be admiring large sculptural spiders in solitude, but instead realized this is predominantly a print show – all the better to be admired when uncrowded and quiet, and when you have time to appreciate the details.

Bourgeois lived a long and strong life, at various times in and out of both the public eye and the acclaimed art scene of the day. Through it all she created prodigiously and frequently serially reworked her own pieces along some consistent lines, most famously the spider (and yes, there is a large spider on view here). Here we see her spiders in many formats and explorations, and also other ways in which she delves into themes of motherhood, woman, male-female power imbalance – some topics that feel quite current. Her art apparently made her a darling of the Feminist movement for a while, although she didn’t claim to be a feminist. She comes across in this show as a strong creative force, a woman who claimed for herself the right to try to have it all on her own terms. When she writes “What did you do for 20 years? You have wasted your time. The woman who has lost her life she has cooked, housecleaned, sewn, washed, done the stairs, the windows…,” you think it may be a lesson or admonishment or judgment, until a later drawing shows finely penciled words such as “I have spent my life washing socks.” Really, Louise Bourgeois, washed socks?!

Ilona Quasha

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