Most writers on Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), says her artwork mirrors her troubled life. I’m in no way an expert on Bourgeois. I have seen parts of her work in different exhibitions all over the world, and I always find it intriguing – but it is not for me to say whether or not her art reflect her life. However I do believe art must do more than mirror just a singular person’s individual life, to be of public interest. I’m not saying that an artist’s life is of no interest, just that there always also have to be more. Bourgeois put it this way: “A work of art doesn‘t have to be explained… If you do not have any feeling about this I cannot explain it to you, I have failed.” Art is connectedness.
If I had been the owner of an unlimited travel account, I would have gone to Stockholm right away, to see Bourgeois’s show “I Have Been to Hell and Back” at Moderna Museet, especially since one-third of the pieces in the exhibition have never before been shown publicly before. But for now I have to be satisfied with what I can find in the web:
Louise Bourgeois N.Y.C., 1998, Photo: Mathias Johansson
The giant sculpture Maman is perhaps Bourgeois’s most significant single work. Maman is a monumental steel spider, so large that it can only be installed out of doors, or inside a building of industrial scale. Supported on eight slender, knobbly legs, its body is suspended high above the ground, allowing the viewer to walk around and underneath it. Each ribbed leg ending in a sharp-tipped point is made of two pieces of steel, and attached to a collar above which an irregularly ribbed spiralling body rises, balanced by a similar sized egg sac below. The meshed sac contains seventeen white and grey marble eggs that hang above the viewer’s head, gleaming in the darkness of their under-body cavity. Maman was made for the opening of Tate Modern in May 2000 as part of Bourgeois’s commission for the Turbine Hall, the grand central space of the museum.
In the very fine short-film Three Artists, On a Spider by Louise Bourgeois, Lars Norén, Karin Mamma Andersson and Meriç Algün Ringborg reveal very different feelings and thoughts about Louise Bourgeois’s Maman. I am especially fascinated by the way Karin Mamma Andersson talks about being a woman & an artist. And I must say I also find Norén’s jeering of the historical urban space rather entertaining. To be fair I have to say that I myself really love the milieu at Skeppsholmen.
Louise Bourgeois: Maman (1999), as shown in Stockholm 2015
Louise Bourgeois was born in France, where she studied art for a number of artists, including Othon Friesz, André Lhote and Fernand Léger. She moved to New York in 1938, where she began her career as an artist.