Sunday, April 1, 2012

Louise Borgeois at the Kunsthalle

In honor of the great, late Louise Bourgeois 100th birthday, the Hamburger Kunsthalle has a show highlighting some of her major projects. One of her famous Maman (1999), giant metal spider sculpture, sits at the entrance to the museum. This project, she explains in the feature length documentary Lousise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress, and the Tangerine (2008) (also at the exhibit), represents her mother and the sharp intellect she inherited from her. More personally, it represents a reconciliation with her mother.
The title piece of the show, Passage Dangeroux (1997), is a huge cage-like structure holding different “rooms” of found and sculptural objects representing memories of her childhood as well as the feminine psyche and psychological trauma. Unfortunately this impressive piece felt dwarfed by the large hall, I think it would have been more effective if it felt more closed in, in a smaller space.
My favorite piece in the show was, Untitled (1996),  an installation of sheer garments hanging from giant bones casting ever-so-slightly moving shadows on the floor. The delicacy of human life seemed suspended here. On my second visit to the show I noticed newly formed spider webs and a piece of blond hair hanging from the garments. These unintentional additions were so eloquent. 
 In addition to Bourgeois sculptures there are two wings of her 2-D work. One holds many rooms filled with framed fabric pages of the book Ode à l'Oubli (Ode to Forgetfulness) (2002), sewn with patterns and text. 
The other displays large scale etchings from the series À L'infini (2008). These look like watercolors depicting converging lines which represent thread. This thread is so significant because her mother was a seamstress and she associates her with the spider. The red colors invoke human organs and makes one think of the mother spinning the web of life.

Bourgeois long career involved her in many movements, such as surrealism, abstract expressionism and feminist art. She was one of the first female artists to be recognized and show with the other big names in museums. Her life and work paved the way for many woman artists as well as installation art, and her genuinely personal approach to art making has never wavered.

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