Louise Bourgeois: Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, New York

By Rich, Sarah K. | Artforum International, November 2008 | Go to article overview

Louise Bourgeois: Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, New York


Rich, Sarah K., Artforum International


A FRIEND RECENTLY told me of her visit to one of Louise Bourgeois's salons a few years ago. Another guest had gifted Bourgeois a box of bonbons, which the Grande Dame had been enthusiastically sampling, covering herself and all she touched with chocolate in the process. My friend had taken a painting to show--a small gouache requiring close inspection--and suddenly Bourgeois made a grab for close inspection--and suddenly Bourgeois made a grab for it. Facing the prospect of having her work amended with cocoa powder, my friend demurred, and finally a third party was recruited to hold the piece before Bourgeois's eyes. But for the rest of the afternoon, no one would be entirely safe from Bourgeois's caked brown fingers.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This is an anecdote that presents Bourgeois as I have always imagined her--taking hold of the world with hands dripping in luxury and squalor. She is the one who, hair unkempt, would parade through the streets of New York in the latex regalia of a dozen tits. She is the one who, in photographs, would direct her affectionate gaze down to her mutating sculpture as if it were a favorite pet. She is the one who would use a material as noble as marble, but only to sculpt and polish the stuff so that it might be easier for someone to fuck. Yes, I have always thought, she is in it, in everything, shamelessly relishing bodies and all their sloppy, ridiculous protruberances, their hooded members poking through silken mucus. This is the Louise Bourgeois who has inspired generations of artists (many of them women) who see in her wicked smile a beacon that leads toward artmaking at its most gorgeous and cruel.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Bourgeois is a towering figure who made herself so through acts and displays of intimacy: small sculptures demanding close, private looks; large sculptures that dwarf audiences, putting them in the place of children. Yet this play with scale necessarily presents a problem for installation, particularly in the vast spaces and compartmentalized ramps of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Upon entering the museum, one could barely see two interlocked spiders wrestling at a distance, obscured by milling crowds and backlight from the window. The only other pieces in the rotunda were the artist's Untitled aluminum coils, 2004--an erudite choice, though not terribly sensitive to the operations of scale in her work. Reminiscent of the hanging Les Bienuenus (The Welcoming), pieces Bourgeois made for the park of Choisy-le-Roi in France in 1995, the vaguely excremental series of loops extended a perverse welcome to the museum visitor. Because the coils are each about the height of a person, however, they seemed dainty in the central space, like silver earrings dangling beside a concave cheek.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Some of the artist's pieces likewise suffered the disadvantage that sculpture can face in the Guggenheim: The ramp often does not leave enough room for objects to beplaced out among viewers with ease, so works are pushed against the walls, to be looked at from a frontal position rather than engaged through circumambulation. Cumul I, 1969, for example, needs to be in an open gallery space in order for us to perceive its striking ambiguity of scale. While Minimalist pieces (particularly those of Robert Morris) tend to operate in a literal size that hovers between that of architecture and traditional sculpture, relying upon a neutral gestalt to throw perceptual and contextual awareness back upon the viewer, Cumul I harnesses contradictory representational cues in order to play with scale. More lateral than vertical, it can read like a landscape, so the forms bubbling up seem like craters rendered in something less than actual size. Yet the sculpture's biomorphism, as well as its persistent intrusion into the viewer's space, nevertheless encourages one to compare Cumul I to the scale of the human body, in which case the rising tumescent shapes seem bigger than anything a person could muster.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Louise Bourgeois: Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, New York
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.