Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Louise Bourgeois, 1911–2010

Louise Bourgeois, Couple, 2004, in "The Female Gaze" at Cheim & Read, June 25–September 19, 2009. Photo: 16 Miles [more]

The great artist Louise Bourgeois has died. When I was a docent giving tours at Dia:Beacon, the floor devoted to her sculpture almost always got the most enthusiastic, sustained reactions from visitors. After the rigid, imposing geometry of Heizer, Judd, and Serra, Bourgeois' work, tucked away in a sprawling space above those men, always felt like a revelation: a breath of new (though not necessarily safer) air.

She was the first woman to have a large-scale retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (in 1982!), the first artist to take over Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, and hosted a salon in Chelsea that became a rite of passage for many New York artists, though there are thousands of reasons to remember her work and life, not least her unflagging belief in and commitment to new art. I wrote a brief obituary; here are some wonderful ones:
  • Carolina Miranda, WNYC: "Louise Bourgeois, the diminutive French-born artist, who was renowned for her practically sinister abstract and figurative sculptures, has died in New York at the age of 98."

  • Adrian Searle, The Guardian: "The art of Louise Bourgeois puts the feeble one-hit wonders, the diamond skulls, the next-big-thing careerist chancers and the defenders of this or that latest tendency in their place."

  • Michael Glover, The Independent: "Some of her most celebrated works were her soft sculptures – she inherited from her parents a love of sewing – made from fabrics and stuffing. She helped to dignify the idea of softness, to give it gravity and feeling."

  • Jerry Saltz, New York: "Where many artists who incorporate their biographies become slaves to them, and flog them in cloying ways, Bourgeois was always removed and skeptical, as filled with anger as she was with wit and incredulity."

  • Holland Cotter, The New York Times: "'I have a religious temperament,' Ms. Bourgeois, a professed atheist, said about the emotional and spiritual energy that she poured into her work. 'I have not been educated to use it. I’m afraid of power. It makes me nervous. In real life, I identify with the victim. That’s why I went into art.'" [Also available at the Globe & Mail]

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