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Absolute Installation

Louise Bourgeois

During her 70-year long career Louise Bourgeois created a highly distinctive and unique body of work that consists of paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations.

© Louise Bourgeois, Cell VIII, 1998, installation. Photo: Peter Bellamy, courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

The major themes of her work derive from childhood memories, familial relationships, and sexuality. Bourgeois’ art, symbolic in nature, allows her to give form to her emotions and in the process relieve her anxiety.

One of the recurrent motifs in Bourgeois’s art is the relationship of one person to another that is expressed through a relationship to architecture. Her work is full of images of houses, nests, lairs, and cells. In the early 90s, Bourgeois conceived a series of large scale rooms constructed of wooden doors, glass panels, or wire mesh that housed objects that she had made, together with objects from her life, such as furniture, clothing and tapestries. These cells explored the relationship between the five senses and memories.

Cell VIII, from 1998, is an octagonal cage made of wire mesh with a single door. Clothes of various shades of blue and a large tapestry cross the cage diagonally from wall to wall. A tiny chair covered in flesh colored fabric with human feet for its legs sits secretly behind the large tapestry. A small block of pink marble with carved rabbit ears rests near the wall hidden from view. A tiny spider clings to one of the cell walls. Though the entire installation has a menacing air, Bourgeois has recreated a memory from her childhood when she would hide behind the tapestries that her family restored. Hidden, Bourgeois was able to ease drop on her parent’s conversations in an attempt to understand what was going on. The blue of the clothes relates to the idea of not knowing what is going on and being in the dark. The clothes which belonged to the artist not only stand in as surrogates for her but also symbolize the passing of time. The rabbit ears signify the importance of the sense of hearing when one is unable to see. The tiny spider represents Bourgeois’ mother who restored the tapestries and was the artist’s protector.

Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911 in Paris, and lived and worked in New York from 1938 until her death in May 2010.

Randi Godø