Posts Tagged ‘Robert Hughes

27
Aug
19

Exhibition: ‘Lee Krasner: Living Colour’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 30th May – 1st September 2019

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view at the Barbican Art Gallery
30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

 

The augur of passion, the fire of movement, the colour of the embrace!

She used to ask herself, “does it work?”, as every artist should… not seeking affirmation from others but just being focused in her own mind on what she wanted to say, on that inner experience.

She was the equal of men, surpassing most. Krasner is finally getting the accolades she so richly deserves.

Marcus

 

Many thankx to the Barbican Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. The black and white photographs have been digitally cleaned by myself.

 

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view at the Barbican Art Gallery
30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) 'Untitled' 1946

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Untitled
1946
Collection of Bobbi and Walter Zifkin
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Jonathan Urban

 

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) 'Abstract No. 2' 1947

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Abstract No. 2
1947
IVAM Centre, Spain
Courtesy IVAM
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation

 

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) 'Mosaic Table' 1947

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Mosaic Table
1947
Private Collection
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York

 

 

The cold winter on Long Island, where Krasner and Pollock were now living, forced her to work downstairs by the stove, where she made two brilliantly coloured mosaic tables using wagon wheels she found in the barn.

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Composition 1949 and Stop and Go c. 1949
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Installation view with Stop and Go c. 1949
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Blue Level' 1955

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Blue Level
1955
Private Collection
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Diego Flores

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Desert Moon' 1955

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Desert Moon
1955
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
© 2018 Digital Image Museum Associates/ LACMA/Art Resource NY/ Scala, Florence

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Bald Eagle' 1955

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Bald Eagle
1955
Collection of Audrey Irmas, Los Angeles
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Jonathan Urban

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Bird Talk 1955 and Bald Eagle 1955
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Bird Talk 1955
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Prophecy' 1956

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Prophecy
1956
Private Collection
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York
Photo: Christopher Stach

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Embrace' 1956

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Embrace
1956
Photograph © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Christopher Stach

 

 

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Embrace 1956
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

 

“I like a canvas to breathe and be alive. Be alive is the point.”

“Painting is a revelation, an act of love… as a painter I can’t experience it any other way.”

“I was a woman, Jewish, a widow, a damn good painter, thank you, and a little too independent…”

“Aesthetically I am very much Lee Krasner. I am undergoing emotional, psychological, and artistic changes but I hold Lee Krasner right through.”

“Painting is not separate from life. It is one. It is like asking – do I want to live? My answer is yes – and I paint.”

“I couldn’t run out and do a one-woman job on the sexist aspects of the art world, continue my painting, and stay in the role I was in as Mrs Pollock… What I considered important was that I was able to work and other things would have to take their turn.”

“Jackson always treated me as an artist… he always acknowledged, was aware of what I was doing… I was a painter before I knew him, and he knew that, and when we were together, I couldn’t have stayed with him one day if he didn’t treat me as a painter.”

“[The Surrealists] treated their women like French poodles, and it sort of rubbed off on the Abstract Expressionists. The exceptions were Bradley Walker Tomlin, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock. That might be the end of my listing. The other big boys just didn’t treat me at all. I wasn’t there for them as an artist.”

“I go on the assumption that the artist is a highly sensitive, intellectual and aware human being… It’s a total experience which has to do with the sensitivity of being a painter. The painter’s form of expressing [them]self is through painting.”

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Lee Krasner

 

“… their blossoming was remarkable. In fact “blossoming” is hardly the word, for it suggests a soft, floral, ethereal event, adjectives one would not pick for the tough paintings, often full of barely controlled anger, that she was to produce after 1960… Is there a less “feminine” woman artist of her generation? Probably not.”

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Robert Hughes

 

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with The Eye is the First Circle 1960
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Polar Stampede' 1960

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Polar Stampede
1960
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

 

Polar Stampede 1960, one of a series of paintings she made at night during bouts of insomnia and which her friend, the poet Richard Howard, called her ‘Night Journeys’

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'The Guardian' 1960

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
The Guardian
1960
Oil and house paint on canvas
53 1/8 × 58 1/8 in. (134.9 × 147.6 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art
Purchase, with funds from the Uris Brothers Foundation, Inc.

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Assault on the Solar Plexus 1961
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Through Blue' 1963

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Through Blue
1963
Private Collection, New York City
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Christopher Stach

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Through Blue 1963
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Another Storm 1963
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Another Storm' 1963

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Another Storm
1963
Private Collection
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Icarus' 1964

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Icarus
1964
Thomson Family Collection, New York
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York
Photo: Diego Flores

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Chrysalis 1964 and Icarus 1964
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Combat 1965
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Siren' 1966

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Siren
1966
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Cathy Carver, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Untitled' 1969

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Untitled
1969
The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York City
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Portrait in Green 1969
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner, who died in 1984, at work in her studio in the 60s, painting 'Portrait in Green'

 

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Palingenesis 1971
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Palingenesis' 1971

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Palingenesis
1971
Collection Pollock-Krasner Foundation
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

 

Palingenesis noun Biology: the exact reproduction of ancestral characteristics in ontogenesis (the development of an individual organism or anatomical or behavioural feature from the earliest stage to maturity).

When Krasner showed 12 new paintings at the Marlborough Gallery in New York the critic Robert Hughes described this pink as rapping ‘hotly on the eyeball at 50 paces’.

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Olympic 1974
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Imperative' 1976

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Imperative
1976
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C

 

 

Barbican Art Gallery is pleased to stage the first retrospective in Europe for over 50 years of American artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984). One of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism, Krasner made work reflecting the feeling of possibility and experiment in New York in the post-war period. Lee Krasner: Living Colour features nearly 100 works – many on show in the UK for the first time – from across her 50-year career, and tells the story of a formidable artist whose importance has often been eclipsed by her marriage to Jackson Pollock.

The exhibition celebrates Krasner’s spirit for invention – including striking early self-portraits; a body of energetic charcoal life drawings; original photographs of her proposed department store window displays, designed during the war effort; and her acclaimed ‘Little Image’ paintings from the 1940s with their tightly controlled geometries. It also features collages comprised of torn-up earlier work and a selection of her most impressive large-scale abstract paintings. This work is accompanied by rare photography and film from the period, in an elegant exhibition design by David Chipperfield Architects.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: ‘We are thrilled to be staging Lee Krasner: Living Colour. Despite featuring in museum collections around the world and being one of the few women to have had a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in 1984, Krasner has not received the recognition that she deserves in Europe, making this an exciting opportunity for visitors here to experience the sheer impact of her work’.

Krasner was determined to find new ways to capture inner experience. As the playwright Edward Albee commented at her memorial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in both her life and her work, ‘…she looked you straight in the eye, and you dared not flinch’. Born in Brooklyn in 1908 in a family recently emigrated from Russia, she chose to attend Washington Irving High School (which at the time was the only school in New York to offer an art course for girls) before going on to study at the National Academy of Design. She was inspired by the opening of MoMA in 1929; joined the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, where she made lifelong friends including renowned designer Ray Eames; was a member of the American Abstract Artists; and became a friend to many leading artists of the day including Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.

In 1945, Krasner married Jackson Pollock and they moved to Springs, Long Island, borrowing $2000 from collector and dealer Peggy Guggenheim to buy a run-down clapboard farmhouse. Krasner worked in the living room and then an upstairs bedroom – intimate make-shift studio spaces, which are mirrored in the Barbican Art Gallery’s upstairs rooms – while Pollock worked in a converted barn outside. After Pollock’s early death in a car crash in 1956, Krasner made the courageous decision to claim his studio as her own, which allowed her to work for the first time on large, un-stretched canvas tacked to the wall. The result would be the remarkable ‘Umber’ and ‘Primary’ series paintings, in which her exploration of scale, biomorphic form and colour collided into some of her most celebrated work. Examples on show include The Guardian, 1960; Happy Lady, 1963; Icarus, 1964; and Siren, 1966.

Lee Krasner: Living Colour draws from more than 50 international collections: from museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Washington, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, as well as from a large number of private collections. Many works are being exhibited in Europe for the first time, such as the monumental Combat (1965), which is over 4 metres long, and has travelled from the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.

The exhibition is curated and organised by Barbican Centre, London, in collaboration with Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Press release from the Barbican Art Gallery [Online] Cited 14 June 2019

 

Unknown Photographer. 'Lee Krasner and her younger sister, Ruth' c. 1915-16

 

Unknown Photographer
Lee Krasner and her younger sister, Ruth
c. 1915-16

 

“I was brought up to be independent. I made no economic demands on my parents so in turn they let me be… I was not pressured by them, I was free to study art. It was the best thing that could have happened.” ~ Lee Krasner

 

Lee Krasner. 'Self-Portrait' c. 1928

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Self-Portrait
c. 1928
The Jewish Museum, New York
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy the Jewish Museum, New York

 

Unknown photographer. 'Lee Krasner' c. 1938

 

Unknown photographer
Lee Krasner
c. 1938
Gelatin silver print

 

Maurice Berezov (American, 1902-1989) 'Lee Krasner in her New York studio' 1939

 

Maurice Berezov (American, 1902-1989)
Lee Krasner in her New York studio
1939
Gelatin silver print
© Copyright A.E. Artworks, LLC

 

Fred Prater. 'Lee Krasner at the WPA Pier, New York City, where she was working on a WPA commission' c. 1940

 

Fred Prater
Lee Krasner at the WPA Pier, New York City, where she was working on a WPA commission
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Lee Krasner Papers, c. 1905-1984
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

 

'Lee Krasner photo booth images' Nd

 

Lee Krasner photo booth images
1940s-50s?

 

With Jackson Pollock in Springs, London Island, 1949

 

With Jackson Pollock in Springs, London Island, 1949
Photo: Wilfred Zogbaum

 

 

“She would ask me to the studio. One didn’t just go there. One waited for an invitation. But she didn’t talk about her painting. The most distinct thing for her was the question: does it work? That was the big way that she thought. She wasn’t insecure about it. She wasn’t asking my opinion. She was asking herself.

“She had a very strong conviction about herself as a painter. She saw her own worth. She saw herself as equal to the men. She didn’t have the attention Pollock had, but she’d grown inured to that. Lee knew all about brands: she was Mrs Pollock, and sometimes she took advantage of it. But she also had great feeling for him as a painter. He wasn’t an easy person, but she never disparaged him, and he never disparaged her, either. The most powerful attraction between them was their intellectual acknowledgement of each other.”

Krasner’s nephew Jason McCoy quoted in Rachel Cooke. “Reframing Lee Krasner, the artist formerly known as Mrs Pollock,” on The Guardian website Sunday 12 May 2019 [Online] Cited 22 June 2019

 

Halley Erskine. 'Lee Krasner standing on a ladder in front of 'The Gate' (1959) before it was completed, Springs, July or August 1959' 1959

 

Halley Erskine
Lee Krasner standing on a ladder in front of ‘The Gate’ (1959) before it was completed, Springs, July or August 1959
1959
Gelatin silver print

 

Hans Namuth (German, 1915-1990) 'Lee Krasner in her studio in the barn, Springs' 1962

 

Hans Namuth (German, 1915-1990)
Lee Krasner in her studio in the barn, Springs
1962
Gelatin silver print
Lee Krasner Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Lee Krasner, Springs, NY' 1972

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Lee Krasner, Springs, NY
1972
Gelatin silver print
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

 

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Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS

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01
Mar
13

Review: ‘Louise Bourgeois: Late Works’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th November 2012 – 11th March 2013

Louise Bourgeois & Australian Artists
13 October 2012 – 14 April 2013

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“What counts, our whole purpose, is to try to understand what we are about, to scrutinise ourselves… Every day you have to abandon your past or accept it, and then, if you cannot accept it, you become a sculptor.
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“The fears of the past were connected with the functions of the body, they reappear through the body. For me, sculpture is the body. My body is my sculpture.”

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Louise Bourgeois

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“What images can art find for depicting femaleness from within, as distinct from the familiar male conventions of looking at it from the outside, from the eye-line of another gender?” Hughes questioned in a commentary that implied no precedents. “… [Her] influence on young artists has been enormous.”

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Robert Hughes quoted by Annemarie Kiely on the Vogue Living Blog

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“Yes, there are the oft-told stories of the father and the mistress, but it is Bourgeois’s intense love of her mother and her [mother’s] death that completely transformed her life… The art ultimately became about her never-ending grief… and her continuing desire  as a woman. It’s still so potent; not just as a memory, but as a constant.”

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Jason Smith, Curator, Director and CEO of Heide quoted by Annemarie Kiely on the Vogue Living Blog

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Tough Love

This is a tough, stimulating exhibition of late works by Louise Bourgeois at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. All the main themes of the artist’s work explored over many years are represented in these late works: memory, emotion, anxiety, family, relationships, childhood, pain, desire and eroticism are all present as are female subjectivity and sexuality, expressed through the body. As the quotation above by Bourgeois states, her body became her sculpture.

I am no expert on the work of the artist. Instead, I refer my reader to an excellent piece of writing by the curator Jason Smith on the history of the artist and the meaning of the work in this exhibition on the Melbourne Review website. What I will try and enunciate are my feelings when viewing the exhibition. Firstly, I thought the drawings by Louise Bourgeois in Heide II were the most magical thing that I saw all day; they seemed to be the well spring of her creativity, the initial thought sketched quickly and imperiously. Secondly, series such as Dawn (2007, below) and The Waiting Hours (2007), assemblages of cut fragments of her dresses and other textiles used to create spiral three-dimensional realities, were the most beautiful, peaceful Zen based works in the exhibition possessing as they did a calm, resolved, mandala-like presence. Lastly, the main group of sculptures were, for me, hard to look at. A series of severed heads, dismembered bodies, tapestry fragments, spiders, bones, an orrery-like planetarium, pendulous objects stuck with needles, kitchen implements and the house brought back memories of my own childhood.

I was born in the late 1950’s to a mother who didn’t really want to have children, to a mother who was already being beaten up by an abusive husband before she was even married, who lived on a remote, isolated farm in the middle of nowhere. I can’t imagine what my mother went through in those early years raising two children – with no hope of help or escape, with no women’s refuge to flee to, stuck there doing her best to protect her children and herself from a violent, mentally ill man. You cannot imagine the torment I went through for the first 18 years of my life, trying to protect my mother when I was old enough, creating my own worlds to escape the reality of the present (which is why I probably became an artist, to still create my own worlds). There were good times at Christmas and bonfire night, but the best part was growing up on the land, learning the rhythms of nature, learning to drive on a tractor and combine harvester, but always in the back of your mind was the instant of abuse lurking around the corner, the inherent violence of life. It is only now, as I have grown older, that I can truly appreciate the dire predicament that my mother was in and acknowledge a profound sense of gratitude towards her protection of me as a baby and child.

That is why this exhibition is, for me, tough love. The emotions of Bourgeois’ sculptures are close to the bone. As Jason Smith observes, “Bourgeois saw her mother as rational, patient and stoic in her nurturing, in contrast to the temperament of her father whom she regarded as irrationally emotional, unreasonable and capable of psychological cruelty. Bourgeois became aware at an early age that she was living in a time and social environment in which women and their identities were subordinate to men.” As Bourgeois says of the spider (her mother), “she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat and as useful as a spider. She could also defend herself, and me.” This is what my mother did as well, at great cost to herself.

Bourgeois’ work gives me an overall feeling of immersion in a world view, one that transcends the pain and speaks truth to power. Bourgeois confronted the emotion, memory or barrier to communication that generated her mood and the work. She observed, “My art is an exorcism. My sculpture allows me to re-experience fear, to give it a physicality, so that I am able to hack away at it.” By weaving, stitching and sewing Bourgeois threaded the past through the present and enacted, through artistic performance, a process of repair and reconstruction, giving meaning and shape to frustration and suffering. I have not been so lucky. My mother refuses to discuss the past, will not even come close to the subject for the pain is so great for her. I am left with a heaviness of heart, dealing with the demons of the past that constantly lurk in the memory of childhood, that insistently impinge on the man I am today. Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures brought it all flooding back as the work of only a great artist can, forcing me to become an ethical witness to her past, my past. A must see exhibition this summer in Melbourne.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to curator and Director Jason Smith and Heide Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on some of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Spider' (detail) 1997

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Louise Bourgeois
Spider (detail)
1997
Steel, tapestry, wood, glass, fabric, rubber, silver, gold, bone
449.6 × 665.5 × 518.2 cm
The Easton Foundation, New York, NY
Photograph: John Gollings 2012

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Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Photograph: John Gollings 2012

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“The friend (the spider – why the spider?) because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat and as useful as a spider. She could also defend herself, and me.”

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Louise Bourgeois, from Ode to my Mother, 1995

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Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Photograph: John Gollings 2012

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Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation views
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photograph: John Gollings 2012

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Dawn' 2007 (detail)

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Louise Bourgeois
Dawn (detail)
2007
Fabric book, 12 pages
12 1/4 x 9 3/4 inches each

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“Around 1996, aged 85, Bourgeois began to mine her closets for the garments and textiles that she had worn, collected and stored over a lifetime, and use them to make sculpture and ‘fabric drawings’, continuing her lifelong recall and articulations of familial dysfunction, desire and fear, anger and remorse, isolation and connectedness. In the recycling and reconstruction of her clothing and collected textiles Bourgeois intensified her work’s expression of the human body and of life’s episodes (those as daughter, wife, mother, woman, artist). The materiality of these works testifies to the impression of Bourgeois’ past on her psyche and on reparative acts of making through which her past was reconciled in her present. The beauty of the past for Bourgeois resided in the nurturing, repairing, fortifying and protective tendencies of her mother, which she aligned with the processes of stitching and assembling.

Blue Days (1996) is one of a number of works in which Bourgeois suspended, stuffed and shaped her dresses and shirts, sometimes adding abstract sculptural elements like the red glass sphere that operates here like a nucleus around which the new sculptural bodies circulate. With its intimate relation to the skin and contours of the body, to time and seasons, clothing was used for its power to summon memory: ‘You can retell your life … by the shape, weight, colour and smell of those clothes in your closet. They are like the weather, the ocean, changing all the time.’
In other works Bourgeois’ fragmented figures and anatomical parts give physical form to anxieties rising from unfulfilled desire, acts of betrayal, losses or thwarted communication. Couple IV embodies the dark confusion of the child happening upon the sexual embrace of the adults. The copulating, decapitated lovers appear as an encased ‘archaeological specimen’ and signal Bourgeois’ fraught obsession not only with the infidelities of her father, but also with sex itself. For Bourgeois there is ‘a fatal attraction not towards one or the other, but to the phenomena of copulation … I am exasperated by the vision of the copulating couple, and it makes me so furious … that I chop their heads [off]. This is it … I turn violent. The sewing is a defence. I am so afraid of the things I might do. The defence is to do the opposite of what you want to do.’

Louise Bourgeois’ practice was an elaborate articulation of an existence in which the sculpting world and the living world were one. Her late works summoned the past and confronted the present, and the passage of time, by using the very garments in which the experiences of her life, loves and longings resided.”

Jason Smith, Curator, Director and CEO, Heide Museum of Modern Art.”Louise Bourgeois,” on The Melbourne Review website, November 2012

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Blue Days' 1996

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Louise Bourgeois
Blue Days
1996
cloth, steel, glass
292.1 × 205.7 × 241.3 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
© Louise Bourgeois Trust / Licensed by VAGA, New York / Viscopy, Sydney

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Femme Maison' 2001

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Louise Bourgeois
Femme Maison
2001
fabric, steel
35.6 × 38.1 × 66 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
© Louise Bourgeois Trust / Licensed by VAGA, New York / Viscopy, Sydney

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Femme Maison' 2001

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Louise Bourgeois
Femme Maison (detail)
2001
fabric, steel
35.6 × 38.1 × 66 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
© Louise Bourgeois Trust / Licensed by VAGA, New York / Viscopy, Sydney

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Note that Femme Maison and other artworks are encased in ‘cells’. In one sense, the cell encases and protects the artwork; however, Louise Bourgeois’ intention was to use the cell also as a way of containing the memory held within the work.

The hybrid form of Femme Maison – with its dual translations to ‘woman house’ or housewife – appeared in drawings, paintings and sculpture, and in degrees of abstraction and figuration, from the mid 1940s onwards. In this key late work the textured fabric affirms the central relationship of woman with the domestic space. Stories of the house and the home defined Bourgeois’ identity. The architectural house and its contents – especially the table, bed and chair – and the familial home and its occupants, were the structures that shaped Bourgeois’ unstable sense of self, and her relationships with others. This work plays on the house literally growing out of the woman’s body (the nurturing mother) or, conversely, pinning her dismembered body to the ground, registering the paralysing power of fear, and recalling a painful childhood.

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Knife Figure' 2002

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Louise Bourgeois
Knife Figure
2002
fabric, steel, wood
22.2 × 76.2 × 19.1 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
© Louise Bourgeois Trust / Licensed by VAGA, New York / Viscopy, Sydney

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Untitled' 2002

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Louise Bourgeois
Untitled
2002
Tapestry and aluminium
43.2 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Christopher Burke
© Louise Bourgeois Trust

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Couple IV' 1997

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Louise Bourgeois
Couple IV
1997
fabric, leather, stainless steel, plastic
50.8 × 165.1 × 77.5 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
© Louise Bourgeois Trust / Licensed by VAGA, New York / Viscopy, Sydney

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Untitled' 2002

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Louise Bourgeois
Untitled
2002
Tapestry, aluminium
43.2 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm
The Easton Foundation, New York, NY.

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Cinq' 2007

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Louise Bourgeois
Cinq
2007
fabric, stainless steel
61 × 35.6 × 35.6 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
© Louise Bourgeois Trust / Licensed by VAGA, New York / Viscopy, Sydney

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“Heide Museum of Modern Art is proud to present two major exhibitions featuring the work of Louise Bourgeois. The first, Louise Bourgeois: Late Works includes over twenty, key works direct from the late artist’s studio in New York. The second exhibition, Louise Bourgeois and Australian Artists presents a selection of works by contemporary Australian artists who have been inspired by Bourgeois alongside prints and drawings from her vast graphic oeuvre. Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was one of the most inventive, provocative and influential artists of the twentieth century. Although her work has been exhibited extensively overseas, it has rarely been seen in Australia, and only once in significant depth, at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in 1995 in an exhibition curated by then NGV curator Jason Smith. Louise Bourgeois: Late Works focuses on Bourgeois’s use of fabric in sculpture and what she termed ‘fabric drawings’. A preoccupation with memory and time, human relationships, fear and its annihilation, sexuality and the erotic body, are all emphases of Bourgeois’ final works.

Louise Bourgeois: Late Works is the first exhibition in Australia to survey the work of this profoundly important artist since her death in 2010 and has been curated by Jason Smith, now Heide Director & CEO – in close collaboration with the Bourgeois studio, New York – as a follow up to the 1995 exhibition at the NGV. Focusing on the final fifteen years of Bourgeois’ career, the exhibition examines the use of fabric in her works, and includes 18 sculptures, two suites of ‘fabric drawings’, watercolours, embroidered texts and lithographs never before seen in Australia. In the fabric works the processes of deconstructing and reconstructing, are applied to the contents of Bourgeois’ closets. The recycling of her garments, collected textiles and tapestry fragments intensifies her work’s expression of self-portraiture, and the profound personal experiences that defined her life and art.

Fabric was important to Louise Bourgeois, who grew up in her parents’ tapestry making business. In 1996, in her mid-eighties, Bourgeois began to transform the garments and textiles that she had worn, collected and stored over a lifetime into sculptures and ‘fabric drawings’. For her, sewing was an act of healing or reparation, linked to memories of her mother who ‘would sit out in the sun and repair a tapestry or a petit point’, an image of calm amid more distressing family dynamics.

Central to the exhibition is Spider, 1997 one of the Bourgeois’ Cells sculptures which is dominated, enclosed and protected by a gargantuan spider – a recurring and powerful motif in the artist’s work. Bourgeois created her spider sculptures partly in tribute to her mother, saying: ‘Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. Spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother’. The female body and female subjectivity are concentrations in the exhibition.

The familial, biographical stories that provided life-long fuel for Bourgeois’ art are well known: her parents’ tapestry workshop in which she learnt the value of art as a form of reparation; her father’s public infidelity; her mother’s betrayal and early death; her complex sense of abandonment; her constant analysis of self; her belief in art a form of exorcism and as a potential reconciliation with the past.

Another highlight of the exhibition is the haunting Couple IV 1997, depicting a pair of copulating, and decapitated, lovers. The embracing figures are cast in the black of mourning, and appear as an encased ‘archaeological specimen’ in the vitrine. The work signals Bourgeois’ fraught obsession with the past, the infidelities of her father, and with sex itself.

Surrealism and pathos combine in Bourgeois’ smaller, intimate works like Knife figure 2002 and Untitled 2002. Here we see a dark side of the domestic with the knife and the whisk looming threateningly large in relation to the prone, dismembered bodies. In their colouration and homely material qualities they inspire tenderness and protection, yet as with so many of Bourgeois’ bodies, each remains cut off from the world and isolated to deal with its fate.”

Press release from the Heide Museum of Modern Art website

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Louise Bourgeois & Australian Artists

“This exhibition looks at relationships, both real and imagined, between the art of Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) and that of ten Australian artists, in the rare context of a solo Bourgeois exhibition at Heide. Some pay direct homage to Bourgeois’ work or consider similar themes, while the connection of others registers more instinctually, on the level of a shared psychological intensity. Many of the works are rooted in memory and emotion, with a core that remains indecipherable – they do not illustrate or explain.

Forged regardless of fashion or fortune, Bourgeois’ oeuvre gave several artists in this exhibition the impetus to use personal subject matter as a creative source in the late 1980s and 1990s, an era when a cool, detached conceptualism dominated. Many share Bourgeois’ subjective focus and use the human body as a vehicle for self-expression, while for others her work’s formal precision and constant reinvention inspire. All respond to the exemplary fusion in Bourgeois’ art between inner compulsion and formal discipline, instinct and intelligence

The Australian artists are Del Kathryn Barton, Pat Brassington, Janet Burchill, Carolyn Eskdale, Brent Harris, Joy Hester, Kate Just, Patricia Piccinini, Heather B. Swann.”

Statement from the from the Heide Museum of Modern Art website

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Janet Burchill. 'Following the Blind Leading the Blind' 1997

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Janet Burchill
Following the Blind Leading the Blind
1997
Synthetic polymer and enamel paint on wood
144.6 × 142.6 × 29.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased 1999

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“The grid is a very peaceful thing, because nothing can go wrong … everything is complete. There is no room for anxiety … everything has a place. Everything is welcome.”

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Louise Bourgeois

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I had a weak-at-the-knees, tingle-all-over moment when I saw Louise Bourgeois’ work for the first time about fifteen years ago in Los Angeles. Yes I am a CRAZY fan. And, yes, it’s true I lay under her big spider in Tokyo and cried…

These are the releases I hope for in our vast world of art. Encounters when the artwork is somehow so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses … an experience of recognition, relief and awe that informs one’s deeper creative makeup.

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Del Kathryn Barton

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Del Kathryn Barton. 'no other side' 2012

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Del Kathryn Barton
no other side
2012
(one part of nine)
Dupion silk and embroidery cotton
9 parts, each 42 × 45cm
In collaboration with Karen Barton
Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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“I guess every artist has other practices that they aspire to. Louise Bourgeois’ practice – by which I mean the combination of the works, the way that they were made, the artist and the way that she conducted herself – is such a practice for me. The way that she worked for so long, and continued to develop her work in good times and bad, as well as the way that her works are so much of their times but at the same time not quite in sync with them inspires me. The fact that I hardly know the work she made prior to her fifties demonstrates the truth of the idea that art is a lifetime project that can continue to evolve as an artist matures. And then, of course, there is the work itself.”

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Patricia Piccinini

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Patricia Piccinini. 'The Uprising' 2008 bronze

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Patricia Piccinini
The Uprising
2008
Bronze

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Patricia Piccinini. 'The Uprising' 2008 bronze (detail)

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Patricia Piccinini
The Uprising (detail)
2008
Bronze

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“The massive aorta-like The Uprising, with its labyrinthine musculature, is a much stranger work. It establishes a bridge between the Vespa stags and the transgenic creatures, while being simultaneously amorphous and representational. Corporeal and mechanical, it suggests the plastic, porous, and uncertain world of the new nature that is at the core of the figurative works. For this reason it is physically sited at the boundary between natural history and art history…”

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Juliana Engberg

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Nectar' 2012

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Patricia Piccinini
Nectar
2012
Silicone, fibreglass, human hair, refrigerator edition
1/6 83 × 48 × 51cm
Courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and Haunch of Venison, London and New York

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“Taking her cue from the vague boundaries of the biotech world, ‘where it is difficult to figure exactly where the good becomes tainted and the bad becomes justifiable’, Piccinini considers her own hybrid creations, however abject or grotesque, as lovable, associated with fecundity, growth and optimism. Like Bourgeois, she presents strange couplings of the animal and the human, that despite their de- formations always convey intimacy and warmth. Here the title Nectar suggests that there may be something nourishing in what might otherwise appear as a failed experiment.” (Text from educational pdf)

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Pat Brassington. 'House guest #2' 2007

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Pat Brassington
House guest #2
2007

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Patt Brassington. 'The Guardian' 2009

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Pat Brassington
The Guardian
2009
Pigment print on paper edition
6/8 112 × 87.5 cm
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Purchased with funds from the Robert Salzer Foundation 2009

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Heide Museum of Modern Art
7, Templestowe Road
Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II and Heide III)
Tue – Fri 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00 noon – 5.00 pm

Heide Museum of Modern Art website

Louise Bourgeois at Heide Museum of Modern Art construction of ‘Spider’ video

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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