Louise Bourgeois's 'Untitled' (1954) consists of a single vertical stack atop a stainless steel base. The stack is composed of painted bronze elements that evoke bones — some small, smooth and neat as vertebrae, some jagged and unruly – or sun-bleached stones. At once anthropomorphic and abstract, the sculpture is a compelling late example of Louise Bourgeois's Personages. Comprising approximately 80 unique wooden iterations created from about 1945 to 1955, this body of work signalled the first great achievement of Bourgeois's mature artistic practice.
‘Untitled’ has the characteristics of a late Personage: rather than featuring simple and concise shapes, the sculpture is comprised of structurally complex forms. Considering the series as a whole, the Personages express the artist's sense of psychological loss and mourning in the wake of her relocation to the US from occupied France. Each bestowed with a personality by dint of their shape and articulation, these works served as a proxy for the family unit that she had left behind. Bourgeois was clearly attached to these surrogate figures, so much so that she kept the carved wooden originals with her for the better part of her life, waiting nearly fifty years before electing to cast them in bronze editions during the 1990s.
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 by an introspective reality, often rooted in cathartic re-visitations of early childhood trauma and frank examinations of female sexuality. Articulated by recurrent motifs (including body parts, houses and spiders), personal symbolism and psychological release, the conceptual and stylistic complexity of Bourgeois’s oeuvre – employing a variety of genres, media and materials – plays upon the powers of association, memory, fantasy, and fear.
© The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY Photo: Mark Setteducati