Louise Bourgeois

1911 - 2010

The French-American visual artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) began developing her oeuvre in the mid-thirties, only gaining recognition and drawing the accolades of a wider international audience in the eighties.

As a result she is considered a figure head for feminism – for the most part unwilling. This status befell Bourgeois because in her role as an artist she expresses herself as a strong woman, unafraid of leaving the world and others to their own devices, instead seeking out the woman within, which leads to an existential awareness of her true self. This introspective quest is conveyed through her visual works − painting, sculptures and sketches −, making her an artist’s artist for several decades. which lead to her being an artist appreciated only by other artists for several decades, which also meant that she remained an outsider in the public art scene.

Using symbolic imagery she focuses on themes of fear, sorrow, desire, alienation, aggressive sexuality, oppression and abandonment, emotionally charged concepts that have a significant bearing on her own personal struggle, and which continue to gain social significance in the public eye.

Her artistic circles include André Breton and Marcel Duchamp; she taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York and towards the end of her career became increasingly focussed on sculptures and carvings. In 1992 she is asked to design the American Pavilion at the 45th Venice Biennale, and also contributed to Documenta IX in Kassel. While her drawings and abstract sculptures are characterised by recurring interpretations of hands, busts, phalluses and faces, her bronze sculptures of massive cellar spiders are in all likelihood the most expressive images found in her generous portfolio.

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