PARIS.- The Galerie Karsten Greve
is presenting Editions, an exhibition dedicated to multiples by the contemporary art icon Louise Bourgeois. Thanks to the support given by Karsten Greve, who held her first solo exhibition in France in his Paris gallery in 1990, she attains the ranks of 20th century masters. Almost thirty years later we are presenting this exhibition just as the MoMA in New York is devoting a large retrospective to Louise Bourgeois' prints and is publishing (Louise Bourgeois, An Unfolding Portrait), for the occasion, an on-line catalogue raisonné of this portion of her oeuvre.
Our show includes over fifty items: single engravings, portfolios and illustrated books from the late 80's up until 2009. Amongst these selected works, one can admire engravings on fabric as well as drypoints, aquatints, and lithographs on paper that Bourgeois often enhanced with drawings.
Throughout her career, Bourgeois devoted herself as much to sculpture as to works on paper and etchings. The artist always maintained an on-going interest in engraving, however printing was particularly important for her creative process at two points in her career: firstly, during her youth, soon after her arrival in New York, she took engraving classes and started going to Atelier 17 (where she would meet artists like Tanguy, Masson and Miró). And similarly so later on, throughout a very prolific phase that would last from the '80s until her death. This exhibition focuses on this second phase of production; the most fruitful one with regards to subjects, techniques and support materials.
Reminiscent of her Parisian childhood her parents had a tapestry restoring business in Saint Germain area fabric is part of the artist's sculptural imagination as well as often being associated with sewing as a metaphor for psychological healing. Nonetheless, her attachment to textile is so strong that she also uses it as a base for her prints; remarkable examples of which are on display in our exhibition: Cross-eyed woman V (Bust of a woman), drypoint on fabric done in 2004.
The significance that Bourgeois gives to engraving stems from her great passion for illustrated books and meshes into her love of reading and writing. The artist is so fascinated by words, and their power to reveal the subconscious, that writing itself becomes an integral part of her creative process, playing a decisive role in the way she understands her emotions and fears. Thus is not surprising the devoted attention Bourgeois affords to artist's books such as The Puritan (1990), on display in the show. Comprising 8 illustrations and a text Louise wrote in 1947, it marks the end of a lengthy publishing hiatus (the very first book by Bourgeois, He Disappeared into Complete Silence, was published in 1947). But the creative process of making books was not often restricted to the classic format of the bound book. Homely Girl, a Life (1991-1992) is a project that comprises a bound version including a written piece by Arthur Miller, as well as a portfolio of 10 drypoints; featured in our show is the bound version in two volumes.
The portfolios constitute a substantial portion of the multiples done by Bourgeois. Several of these are shown during the exhibition, namely: Topiary (The art of Improving Nature). This portfolio with 9 images ranging between drypoint and aquatints, done in 1998, addresses the theme of topiary, the art of pruning trees. In Bourgeois' works botanical species are often used as a metaphor for personal issues. Therefore, Louise associates the strength with which her sister Henriette fights an illness causing progressive rigidity in one of her legs, with the post-traumatic regenerative powers of plants. Topiary is also the title of a series of little bronze pieces in which a woman's body transforms itself into a branch; bringing to mind the iconography of the myth of Daphne.
Engraving is thus closely tied into the themes Bourgeois undertakes in her sculptural work. In this exhibition therefore we come upon a version of Sainte Sébastienne once again (drypoint in black and white on paper, 1992), as well as the Tryptych for the Red Rooms (1994) which offers an interpretation of the arch of hysteria, a figure that represents a physical and psychological state where pain and pleasure blend to produce feelings of arousal expressed through an erotic impulse. This visit into the universe of an artist, whose private and artistic lives are intimately related, concludes with a very special edition of Fleurs, made by Bourgeois in 2009 for a limited number of close acquaintances. Mirroring her neuroses and obsessions, the underlying nature of her works is at once intimate and violent, tender and hard-hitting.
Louise Bourgeois was born on December 25th, 1911 in Paris. She studied at the École de BeauxArts of Paris and joined Fernand Légers atelier. In 2000 the artist has been charged to curate the opening installation in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London. Her works are part of the most important international public collections, such as the MoMA (which held her first retrospective in 1982, and to which Bourgeois donate the entire editions collection) and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Her oeuvre is also included in many important private collections. All along her career, Bourgeois received important awards, such as the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale (1999) and the Légion dHonneur of the French Republic (2008). In 2009 she has been honored by the National Womens Hall of Fame for her contribution in the history of the United States. In 1951 Bourgeois officially became an American citizen. She died in New York, were she moved in 1938, on May 31st 2010, aged of 98 years.