Emblazoned on the walls of the newest exhibition at the Fisher Museum, Louise Bourgeois reflects on the powerful nature of art as therapy.
“Louise Bourgeois: What is the form of this problem? open at the museum on September 6. The exhibition consists of 145 works borrowed from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his family’s Foundation and curated by Naomi Potter of the Esker Foundation. Although Louise Bourgeois is mainly recognized for her sculptural practice, this exhibition emphasizes different mediums including drawing, writing and engraving.
Bourgeois, a French-American artist, has openly struggled with trauma and anxiety throughout her life. Her work clearly indicates her feelings of abandonment and loneliness and is a tangible product of her battle with her mental health.
The introductory text of the exhibition presents Bourgeois’ summary of his approach to art with his famous phrase, “Art is a guarantee of mental health”. For her, art was not a hobby or even an option; it was a necessity. It was her job that kept her alive.
The exhibition takes its name from a series of nine typographic diptychs, which is exhibited in the right wing of the museum. In this specific piece and in several of her works, she includes autobiographical writing, often illustrating a woman under pressure and in crisis as a mother, daughter, wife or artist. Despite dark themes, Bourgeois finds ways to weave in glimpses of optimism and faith, referencing the repair of the sky and seeing glimmers of hope in his work exhibited at Fisher.
Eclectic in nature, Bourgeois’ canon includes prints, etchings, textiles, poems, sculptures, and holographic images. On first viewing, it seems almost impossible that all of these works could be the work of the same artist. However, one major theme ties together much of the exhibit: the symbol of the spider.
Throughout the 78 years of her career, Bourgeois repeatedly portrayed the creature as a representation of maternal benevolent determination.
“Deliberate, intelligent, patient, soothing, reasonable, delicate, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as helpful as a spider,” Bourgeois wrote.
Bourgeois continues to explore the female psyche in her work, reinventing the female form with crafts traditionally delegated to women, including crochet, embroidery and sewing. In this show, she elevates these art forms to represent not only femininity, but also the resilience and beauty of finding yourself.
Throughout his “Crochet IV” series, located in the left wing of the museum, Bourgeois creates original reliefs that are situated between sculpture and drawing. While at their core each piece is a linear composition, each has its own texture due to the unique weaving, twisting and knotting. Bourgeois collaborated with Los Angeles-based print studio Mixografia Workshop for this special series.
A particularly notable section of the exhibit is the room at the very back of the gallery space, showcasing Bourgeois’ holographic work. The series includes eight glass plate holograms, made at the now defunct studio called C-Project in New York City. They are linked to a series of sculptures she made for the Tate Modern in London. Each work is incredibly dynamic and visually appealing, with a sense of depth rarely seen in drawing and due to the nature of the medium. In each piece there is a grotesquely detailed and borderline rendering of body parts, cages and empty chairs, creating an intimate look at Bourgeois’ feelings of isolation and disconnection from the world around him. Although this section of the exhibition feels like a dramatic shift in tone from the rest of his work, it offers an interesting insight into the artist’s mind and suffering.
In his work, Bourgeois deals with his own anxieties and encourages viewers to seek comfort in their own way. Through this exhibition, Bourgeois demonstrates the courage behind the creative process, revealing his personal struggles or his vulnerability. She tells a story about rebuilding her broken self in a way meant to inspire a communal sense of healing and restoration.
“Louise Bourgeois: What is the form of this problem? is on view now through December 3.