Museum of Contemporary Art
You can experience three new mayor works of Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) at our permanent Bourgeois room. The exhibit shows her as one of the most important feminist artists of our times. The French-American artist achieved fame late in life for her bold treatment of major themes related to psychoanalysis, including family relationships and sexuality.
A recurrent theme in Bourgeois' work is the relationship between family members, in particularly the role of the female as daughter, wife and mother. But although her artworks are fueled by specific biographical episodes, they remain open and universal in their symbolism.
Both sculptures in the exhibit are from the late sixties, created during a period when Bourgeois was working with latex and clay paving the way for the abject art style. Abject art relates to the body or aspects of the body that are deemed impure or inappropriate for public display. Many feminist artists explored the abject style in response to the “abjecting” of the female body in patriarchal societies. A few years later Bourgeois became outspokenly feminist and fought for the use of explicitly sexual imagery in art.
Avenza Revisited looks like a pile of mud or excrement running down form a cluster of egg-like protuberances. The strange forms remind us not just of eggs in a nest, but also of bits of human anatomy, particularly breasts, or details of female and male sexual organs, like the glans, the scrotum or the clitoris.
The Family is a series of twelve drawings of a couple in gouache: a round pregnant figure and a man with an erect penis. Depicted frontally with a cluster of five breast-like elements around her neck, the mother figure appears self-contained. The erect phallus of the male figure intruding from the side indicates sexual interest and affection but also threatens to puncture the huge ballooning belly of the female figure.
The drypoint etching Sainte Sébastienne shows a running female figure without a head, shot by arrows. She alters the Christian story of Saint Sebastian the martyr, rendering him as a woman. Overly sexualized, with enormous breasts, belly and buttocks, the female body is depicted here as the object of constant aggression and attack. Lacking a head and arms, she is powerless to defend herself.
The present selection of works on show reveal Bourgeois' broad stylistic and expressive range and her enduring interest in feminist themes.
The permanent Bourgeois exhibition was made possible through collaboration with the Louise Bourgeois Trust and The Easton Foundation, who donated the large series of gouaches, The Family. Cell VIII was purchased by the DNB Savings Bank Foundation in 2012, Fée Couturière in 2015, both under a long-term deposit agreement with the National Museum in Oslo.