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Exhibition of works by Louise Bourgeois opens in Porto
Installation view. Photo: © Ricardo Raminho.

PORTO.- To Unravel a Torment is dedicated to the work of Louise Bourgeois (Paris, 1911, Manhattan, New York, 2010), spanning seven decades and featuring works by the artist made between the late 1940s and her death in 2010, at the age of 98

Visited and revisited in countless and intense exhibitions over recent decades, in different museum spaces around the world, the vast and singular oeuvre of Louise Bourgeois is intercrossed by themes that are indelibly associated with the traumatic events and experiences of her childhood. Themes such as family, sexuality, the body, death and the unconscious required intense therapy, which she consciously carried out through her art.

In her sculptures, textiles, books, drawings and architectural installations, Louise Bourgeois expressed the tension between opposing forces - male / female, passive / active, architecture / body, love / hate - using formal and symbolic equivalents. Although the roots of her work are linked to a profoundly personal and introspective universe, she succeeded in expressing universal emotions and the vulnerability of our daily lives. She underwent psychoanalysis during several years and the resulting self-knowledge and insights are reflected in her art. She consciously exposed her own traumas and emotions in her work, adding personal narrative and psychological lucidity to an extraordinary artistic innovation.

Feelings of failure, fear, envy, oppression or rejection and the impact of her relationships and interactions with others are physically embodied in her work. Through them, the artist invites spectators to confront their emotions.

This visit to the universe of Louise Bourgeois brings 32 works to Serralves, which are being displayed in the Museum and Serralves Park. Maman [Mummy],1999 — perhaps the most emblematic of her famous Spiders, and one of her most representative works — is being shown outdoors, at the top section of the Central Parterre in Serralves Park. With eight slender and gigantic legs, Maman marks its territory. This steel and bronze spider carries a pouch of marble eggs in its abdomen. Louise created Maman as an ode to her mother, who was a weaver of tapestries. It serves as a metaphor of emotional repair: she weaves her web and repairs it when it is damaged. Just as the spider protects its eggs, a mother must protect her children. At the same time, she also saw the spider as a self-portrait: it builds its architecture from its own body, just as she creates sculptures from her psychological interior.

Several works are shown in the rooms of the museum, that immerse the visitor in the universe of Louise Bourgeois. Her oeuvre addressed several themes from different perspectives over time, using different materials. She never shied away from contradictions and cultivated a dynamic game between fact and fiction. It is no coincidence that writing played a relevant place in her work.

“The look of my figures is abstract, and to the spectator they may not appear to be figures at all. They are the expression, in abstract terms, of emotions and states of awareness. Eighteenth-century painters made “conversation pieces”; my sculptures might be called “confrontation pieces.””.[1] Louise Bourgeois

Born in Paris; her parents owned an antique tapestry gallery and a restoration workshop. Before she completely dedicated himself to art, she briefly studied mathematics at the Sorbonne. In 1938, she met American art historian Robert Goldwater and they married three months after their first encounter. Within less than a month she emigrated to New York. After two solo exhibitions of her paintings, Louise Bourgeois exhibited her first sculptures, made of wood, in 1949. Although her works were soon acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in general she remained outside the canon of art history. Only in the 1980s was her work more widely recognised. In 1982 she became the first female artist to have a retrospective at MoMA. At the same time, she published an autobiographical narrative describing her childhood experiences and traumas, which left an indelible mark on her oeuvre - a work that she continued to develop until her death, at the age of 98.

Her relationship with her parents had a significant impact. Her mother died of side effects from the Spanish flu, when Louise was twenty years old. It was Louise who often treated her while she was ill. Her father was a charming, domineering and unfaithful husband. His death in 1951 left a profound mark and further aggravated her feelings of abandonment, depression, guilt and betrayal. Louise Bourgeois underwent intensive psychoanalytic treatment from 1952 until the mid-1960s. Throughout her life she continued to engage with psychoanalytic theories.

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