7.21.2010

Motherlode: Mind and Matter at MoMA, Part 2 Louise Bourgeois's Ode à l'Oubli

Pages of Ode à l'Oubli, a cloth book by Louise Bourgeois, installed in Mind and Matter
.

Back in 2004 I read an article in the New York Times about a fabric book by Louise Bourgeois that was being editioned by master printer Judith Solodkin. By coincidence shortly afterward, a friend who had an appointment with Solodkin invited me to join her in the shop, Solo Impressions, located in the Starrett-Lehigh building on far West 26th Street.
.
This was no ordinary printshop. Amid the presses and drying racks were sewing and embroidery machines, and stations for glitter and other unusual materials. In one area were the pages of Louise Bourgeois’s book, Ode à l’Oubli. I would see them shortly thereafter on exhibition at the Peter Blum Gallery in SoHo—Blum was publisher of the edition—but here I was seeing them at the point of creation, where lithography was done on pieces of Bourgeois's linen trousseau, and even their fabric stains were recreated for the edition of 25.

Judith Solodkin, right, works on the book with an assistant at her press, Solo Impressions Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York times, from the Internet

.
The book was not only printed, it was pieced, embroidered and sewn. I didn’t take notes or pictures at the printshop, so my memory is not aided by anything tangible. But I do remember being impressed—bowled over, really—that a master printer would take on such an unconventional job, containing as it does so much non printing. I also loved seeing the pages up close. (Update: See clarification at the end of the post on the contribution of Dyenamix to the project.)

Ode à l’Oubli is now featured prominently in the Mind and Matter show at MoMA, and you can see those pages up close yourself (through August 16). In this exhibition there are two editions of the book. In one edition, the entire book is arranged page by page on the wall. There’s also a bound edition in a vitrine; in the spread on display you can see the way the stitching from the previous page is visible on the left and its relation to the new page on the right. Despite the softness of the book, the work has nothing to do with Claes Oldenberg and everything to do with Bourgeois’s personal history—she reportedly used a lifetime's worth of personal fabrics—drawing on her textile history as the daughter of a tapestry restorer (who inspired the enormous bronze spiders, the Mamans of Bourgeois’s late career).
.
In translation, the title is Ode to Forgetfulness, yet these pages seems to have recorded much of the artist's life through the fabrics she wore and used. It's not so easy to forget when your life flashes before your eyes in this way.

You've seen this shot in the previous post. Here it serves to orient you to the location of the installation on the far wall
.
Below are some images of individual pages. I love their graphic quality, the geometry of the compositions, the Bourgeoisian organic shapes, and the beautiful way each page has been crafted:
.
.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The closeup below—of the full page closest to you at the left of the frame above—shows the buttonhole detailing. Each bage is so outfitted, because it is with buttons that the book is bound
.


Above, installation view with individual pages and vitrine, foreground
.
Below, the open book inside the vitrine

I love how you can see the back of the previous page in this spread, which features the page below. The printing and embroidery on this page are on one of LB's embroidered linen napkins. Can you see the monogram inside the white oval? It's LBG, Louise Bourgeois Goldwater

You can see all the spreads on a webpage on the site of the Peter Blum Gallery, which published the edition
.
For further reading about this book and other textile work by Bourgeois, there's a beautiful 2006-2007 catalog online in PDF form from the Worcester Art Museum, with an essay by Susan L. Stoops, the museum's curator of contemporary art.
.
Update midday 7.21.10:
Raylene Marasco, president of the SoHo-based
Dyenamix, emailed me with a clarification: "It was actually Dyenamix that printed and dyed the majority of the materials for the Ode a L'Oubli. Judith did, in fact, construct the pages and assemble the book and printed the silkscreened pages, but she was not the only print house providing the process for the project. We actually provided the printed or dyed fabric for 27 of the 34 pages in the book."
Thank you, Raylene, for the clarification. Please accept my apologies. It was not my intention to omit your significant contribution to this major project. I look forward to visiting your studio.
.

6 comments:

Mary Zeran said...

Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing! I have always been so inspired by Bourgeois for so many reasons. I too have a textile history. I worked for a company selling wholesale textiles to interior designers. It is strange how it can just get under your skin and you find yourself hoarding these small bits of fabric.

K. Crane: Big Fat Art Cloth said...

I am so jazzed to see the art in this post. I love that there's a book out you can page through and feel the hand and even the drape of her work. Thanks!

K. Crane: Big Fat Art Cloth said...

oh, I see on a second look that the book is under a case...but still! Love it!

Nancy Natale said...

Wow, this is great! I'm dying to see it in person. Thanks so much for sharing your personal history and insight into the book's creation. There is just something about fabric that is so inviting. I loved seeing the closeups of the pages. The buttons and buttonholes are wonderful.

(The word in my comment word verification was "orasim". I thought for a minute there it was describing my feeling while looking at this book.

annell said...

Thank you so much for this post. I think this is really wonderful. I have not worked with textiles for years, but I have always loved textiles, it is in my heart and in my soul. Then I think, maybe......oh, who knows where we will go as artists? Right now I want to go to the local fabric store, a really wonderful store, I go there and am always inspired. I think of myself as a painter, but......

anne mcgovern said...

Exquisite! So personal, what a wonderful gift from an artist the world will surely miss.