Saturday, July 16, 2011

(Un) Common Thread, Louise Bourgeois, fabric drawings

Cheim & Read

I seem to be spending a lot of time at Cheim & Read these days. I guess the upper echelon always gets the pick of the crop, and this late work by Louise Bourgeois certainly deserves harvesting, as it is a feast for the eyes.
Culled from an even more magnificent looking exhibit in Venice at the Emilio and Annabianca Vedova Foundation, these intricately stitched abstracts flutter like esoteric burgees coded in a profoundly mysterious semaphore.
I’ve always found Bourgeois’ seemingly feminist intent sabotaged by her exquisitely fine tuned sense of being. Her art extends past the merely socio-political into a temporal flux that brings old and new sensations of personal history into well-crafted alignment.
The mundane nature of her media here, brightly colored fabric that may have come from some scrapheap, is reanimated with a deft flourish of precision sewing. My favorite group resembles unfurled beach umbrellas drifting over an expanse of oceanic chroma. These poignantly visual recollections evoke a summer day at some salubrious, Riviera-esque resort.  
The child-like playfulness, and delicacy of touch found in this 90+ year old’s vision, connects to her use of memory as a tangible art medium. This innate ability to corral psychic flavors from her past, and make art based on dream-like narratives, engages us just beyond the cognitive.
The biographical imperative is compelling; a large vitrine encapsulates a feminine form, breasts that read as berets (or vice versa) devolve into a mattress stuffed with a lifetime of a woman’s secrets. On an enjoining wall a revealing peek into a metaphorical lingerie drawer; a small box contains a nylon rumpled up into an old ladies’ blossom. I wonder if she ever met Joseph Cornell?
What I admire most about Bourgeois is how she manages to remain undefinable, while becoming all things to all artists. She wasn’t just a painter, or a sculptor, but a symbol for creative ingenuity that always serves to inspire artistic integrity.     
Bourgeois has to be one of the cultural giants of the 20th century. Her recent retrospective at the Guggenheim served to cement her legacy. More intimate glimpses into her oeuvre, such as at this exhibition, just serve to provide further appreciation of this artist’s multitudinous gifts.


Louise Bourgeois in her home in New York, 2009. Photo: Alex Van Gelder. Courtesy Cheim & Read, Hauser & Wirth, and Galerie Karsten GreveImage

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