Louise Joséphine Bourgeois (1911 – 2010) was a French-American artist. Best known for her large-scale sculpture and installation art nspired by her own memories and experiences, Bourgeois was also a prolific painter and print maker.
Her career spanned eight decades and is one of the great figures of modern and contemporary art.
Whatever materials and processes Louise Bourgeois used to create her powerful artworks, the main force behind her art was to work through her troubled childhood memories. Layering her emotional responses to the complicated relationship she had with her parents and their relationship with each other.
Bourgeois’s use of found objects in her Cells reflects the influence of the artist Marcel Duchamp, who she once referred to as a father figure. Duchamp first used found objects in the early twentieth century. He presented these objects as artworks, calling them his “readymades”
Bourgeois began to make her self-enclosed structures known as Cells in 1989 which became an important part of her output for many years.
In these works she explores themes of being trapped, anguish and fear. The word ‘cell’ can refer to both an enclosed room, as in a prison; as well as the most basic elements of plant or animal life, as in the cells of the body. This is how Bourgeois described how she saw the Cells:
“Each cell deals with a fear. Fear is pain… each cell deals with the pleasure of the voyeur, the thrill of looking and being looked at”
Bourgeois was also known for her “spider” sculptures: huge foreboding bronze and stainless steel. But the spider, as she frequently reminded her spectators, is also a deft weaver and repairer – and working with fabric was always part of her life.
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