Louise Bourgeois
Neue Arbeiten / Recent Works

Past Exhibition 15 Jan – 12 Mar 2000 Zürich


Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911), the grande dame of late Modernism, lives and works in New York. Raised in Paris, she studied mathematics at the Sorbonne before moving to the USA with her husband in 1938. This relocation also marked the beginning of her artistic career. Despite immense productivity in the early post-war period, it was only in 1966 with the Eccentric Abstraction exhibition at New York’s Fischbach Gallery, curated by Lucy Lippard, that she first experienced more widespread recognition. Breakthroughs on the international scene came with the 1982 retrospective of her work in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and her participation in documenta IX (1992) as well as at the 1993 Venice Biennial.

In contrast to the Red Room exhibition in 1996/97, which featured the installation of the same name and associated drawings, this time Galerie Hauser & Wirth is showing primarily drawings and watercolors from recent years as well as several of her latest smaller sculptures.

In the course of her work as an artist, Louise Bourgeois has grappled with a wide range of materials and techniques. In so doing, she has earned the status of a pioneer in several areas: for example, she is one of the first artists to have worked with installations by arranging her sculptures as interrelated components within a spatial context. Her enthusiasm for experimentation keeps leading her to new ways to treat and combine materials. For instance, in several of the sculptural fabric figures produced since the mid-1990s, constructed garments from childhood and youth serve as both substantive fullness and wrapping. They are material and theme, content and form.

With the new relief works, almost all of which were produced over the past year, Louise Bourgeois has expanded the possibilities of sculptural design. The smooth surface in pieces such as with ‘Repairs in the Sky’ is punctured with crater-like openings. These apertures, offering potential glimpses of what lies concealed behind, are re-sealed with fine threads or obscured by the application of fabric. It is exactly this combination of the soft lead with the thread and pieces of fabric that on one hand gives the relief fragility and ‘vulnerability‘ – the metal is pierced and hemmed-in – but on the other hand also intensifies the tension and compactness of the rectilinear pictorial space.

Executed on a variety of papers, the drawings and watercolors are partially overlaid with ornamental patterns. For the artist, the abstract forms are associated with feelings and moods. They are useful for the continual examination of the self, similar to an étude when playing a musical instrument. Although Louise Bourgeois herself gives priority to her sculptures and installations, her graphic work constitutes something of a second, equally valid language.

Louise Bourgeois works with inexhaustible creativity on an oeuvre whose ability to impress is founded most of all in the coherence of its content. With the new pieces, she continues to confront the formative motifs of her work: themes of past experience and memory, fear and hurt, sexuality and the body.

Selected images

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Installation views

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About the artist

Born in France in 1911, and working in America from 1938 until her death in 2010, Louise Bourgeois is recognized as one of the most important and influential artists of the twentieth century. For over seven decades, Bourgeois’s creative process was fueled…

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