Louise Bourgeois: Fabric Works at Cheim & Read

“I always had the fear of being separated and abandoned. The sewing is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole.”

Detail of a work shown in its entirety below
Louise Bourgeois's final works, created between 2002 and 2010, the year she died, were made with needle and thread, the same materials she had used as a child in her parent's tapestry restoration business.  These "drawings," as she called them, are thus a bookend to a career that spanned almost eight decades. The materials come literally from the fabric of her life: domestic textiles, her husband's clothing and her own. The totemic energy imbued in these works is palpable, and the optical quality of some of the pieced work adds an additional layer of vibrational resonance.

Fabric Works, at Cheim & Read on 25th Street through the end of the week, hits so many targets--drawing, painting, sculpture, surrealism, beauty, physicality, geometry, reappropriation, quilting, autobiography, talismanic reconfiguration, each part of the legacy of this great artist--that whatever your interest, you'll not be disappointed. Go! A press release tells us that the show represents a selection  of work curated by Germano Celant for the Fondazione Vedova in Venice last year.

If you can't get to see this show, a full catalog published by Skira is available. The gallery's website features installation views and a checklist with good indivitual images, a boon since it was difficult to shoot through the glazing of the framed works. (I wrote earlier about Bourgeois's fabric work, Ode a l'Oubli at MoMA, and showed some good pics from her 2008 retrospective at the Guggenheim. ) 

Fabric Works consisted of what seemed to be three related shows. In the small front room was a collection of assemblages, like the one below, which read as haiku. The work is from a 2009 suite of 16 small mixed-media works, Eugenie Grandet, each 11.25 x 8.5 inches


In the large gallery, we begin a visal sweep from left to right. I couldn't shoot the works at left--the skylight created too much reflection on the glass--so I pulled the image below from the Cheim & Read website
The Waiting Hours, fabric, suite of 12, each app. 15 x 12.25 inches. With its pretty blues and aquatic theme, this work is, to me, the least "Bourgeoisian" (though the vertiginous panel in the middle row, second from  left, suggests a dangerous list, something the artist never shied away from in her work)

I love this installation of 10 works on the back wall, each a spiral or weblike composion. Here is where the works, with their hand stitching visible, are most linear and drawing-like while at the same time extending a direct line to quilts

Above: Untitled, 2005, fabric, 24 x 31 inches

Below: Untitled, 2006, fabric collage and in, app. 15 inches

Swinging around  to the right (shot from the entry to the gallery), 12 framed collages that comprise the fabric book, Dawn. I shot two pieces, below, and then included an image of the full work from the gallery's website

From the Cheim & Read website, a view of the book, Dawn.

Now we walk into the small back gallery. On the right is the eye dazzler you see below, and around the corner is a vitrine that you will see when you scroll down:

Untitled, 2010
 Anthropomorphic, biographic, enigmatic, metaphoric, this installation appear to allude to her childhood (the threads), her work as a sculptor (the biomorphic form) and--what?--femaleness, motherhood? Those stuffed berets read as breasts, like those on the Diana of Ephesus 

I particularly like this image, since you see one wall work through the vitrine and another reflected in its glass, as well as the sculpture before you, also reflected in the glass. What better metaphor for Bourgeois:  an artist whose legacy will extend long into the future


Tamar said...

After reading your post I realized that I absolutely want to see it again before it closes.
It's hard to say which group of pieces held my gaze the most, since there was so much to respond to. I agree that the seascape group seemed to be the least Bourgeois-like, but the rough seas one adds a kick to the group. This is such a comprehensive look at the show that I've printed out your post as a mini-catalog of the exhibit. (promise not to publish it without sending you royalties!)

Kate P. Miller said...

Absolutely love seeing her spirals, thanks for posting

Seth said...

This is such a fantastic and inspiring show. Great to have this post to be reminded!

Dana S. Whitney said...

This "had me" at the first quote. Thank you for sharing. I'm assuming this is in NYC... will have to check if there is an exhibit catalog.

Marc said...

normally I am not a big fan of her work, but for the most part this was a fantastic show!

annell4 said...

Thank you so much for this post! I love it!