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Thirty-Three Etching and Intaglio Works by Louise Bourgeois at James Cohan Gallery Shanghai
Louise Bourgeois, Spider Woman, 2005. Drypoint on custom handmade paper with "LB" watermark. Plate size: 6 7/8 x 9 1/2 inches; 17.5 x 24.1 cm. Paper size: 13 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches; 34.3 x 34.3 cm. Edition of 25. Courtesy Harlan & Weaver, New York © Louise Bourgeois Trust.

SHANGHAI.- James Cohan Gallery Shanghai presents the exhibition Louise Bourgeois, opened June 4 and continuing through August 28, 2011. The exhibition features thirty-three etching and intaglio works dating from 1999 to 2009 that were printed by the renowned print atelier Harlan & Weaver based in New York City. This exhibition also hallmarks Bourgeois’s long and intensely productive 21-year relationship with master printers Felix Harlan and Carol Weaver, which began in1989. They continued working together until the artist’s death last year, in May 2010, at the age of 98.

Born in Paris, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) studied at the Sorbonne, the Ecole du Louvre and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts prior to moving to New York in 1938 with her husband Robert Goldwater, who was an art historian and curator. She became an American citizen in 1955. Known throughout the world for her sculptures, drawings and prints, Bourgeois came to fame late in her long career. Her major 1982 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York brought Bourgeois, then in her early 70s, the critical acclaim, praise and popularity which had long eluded her. In 1993 she represented the United States at the Venice Biennale.

Printmaking had always been a central and important part of the artist’s work since the 1940s. Like her sculptures, the subject matter and imagery in her prints are emotionally and psychologically charged and personally emblematic. Recurrent themes of intimate relationships, personal memories, family, childhood and motherhood—and the anxiety of separation and reconciliation inherent to them—appear consistently throughout her works. As Felix Harlan has written, “her prints operated freely within her intellectual and emotional realm. The etchings provided a way of giving permanence to certain images she considered important… At times, printmaking became a daily activity, often working on several plates at once, in order to sketch out different ideas, though not all of the images were completed.” Bourgeois, in turn, often said, “The drawing is unimportant; it’s what goes into the plate that counts.” For Bourgeois the etching process and the physicality of its activity and materials—copper plates, using the tools in which to engrave, scratch, and burnish—shared an innate relationship to making sculpture.

This exhibition features the artist’s well-known images and themes, such as Spider Woman (2005), The Angry Cat (1999), and Hanging Figure (2000). Also on view is the portfolio La Reparation (2003) consisting of seven works that dwell symbolically into the artist’s personal history and the memory of her adolescence growing up in her parent’s tapestry restoration business in France. The portfolio’s title, with its double entendre, reflects on the painful emotional struggles Bourgeois experienced in her childhood home: the conspicuous infidelity of her father; her complex relationship with her mother, and the painstaking restoration process of 17th and 18th century textiles that, by the age of fifteen, she would assist in their repairs.

Complimenting this exhibition, and in tribute to Louise Bourgeois, the gallery has invited the artists Lin Tian Miao and Hu Xiaoyuan to exhibit two sculptures. Bourgeois’s work has had a compelling influence and has been deeply admired by many younger artists, particularly women. Lin Tian Miao (b. 1961) and Hu Xiaoyuan (b. 1977) are among two of China’s most dynamic young women artists working today. Lin Tian Miao’s works have been exhibited and collected by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, The Seattle Art Museum, The Singapore Art Museum, and The National Museum of Australia, Canberra, among others. Hu Xiaoyuan’s work has been exhibited at the Kunstmuseum, Bern in 2008, and at Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany, in 2007. Most recently her work was featured in the exhibition “Beyond the Body” at the Museum of Contemporary (MoCA) in Shanghai.

On view at the gallery is Lin’s Mother’s!!! No.1 Dog (2008), which is a key work from her large scale installation and exhibition first presented at Long March Space in Beijing. The sculpture, made of white polyurethane, silk cloth, and silk and cotton thread, depicts a voluptuous, reclining nude female figure, headless and swathed in silk, flanked by two menacing greyhounds. Presented as a dream-like, classical tableau, we are confronted with the artist’s conflicted sense of maternal anguish and vulnerability. In Hu Xiaoyuan’s new sculpture, titled Being Ignored Never Ends, Just Like the River, a quote taken from the Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; Hu has refashioned a common metal work table into a tabletop still life. Consisting of diverse materials, the sculpture is composed of balloons, molded from paper pulp and covered in snakeskin, dried honeycomb, a mirrored box filled with abandoned skins of cicadas, and a drawer of human bones also fabricated of paper pulp, replicating the exact size and proportions of the artist’s own body. For Hu Xiaoyuan each object is a relic of a past existence; a memory of what is shed, left behind, in which desire and new life sprout, and where decay and death seem to be in a state of neglect or being ignored, but also suggesting a potential transformation into new life, which never stops, just like a river.

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