Louise Bourgeois's "The Feeding"

The vast ouvre of internationally recognized and legendary artist Louise Bourgeois, now 98, has always been personal, often autobiographical. The artist has also worked in a wide variety of media. This show of newer work at Gallery Paule Anglim, titled “Mother and Child” (on view through June 12), features both aspects. On view are sculptures, verse, gouache drawings, and prints focused on motherhood, sexuality, birthing, the female power to create, aging, and dying. With these, then, Bourgeois also continues her career-long attention to the experience of being a housewife/mother, further establishing her as one of our most important feminist artists.

Bourgeouis’s work can tilt towards heavy-handedness, particularly when it engages in overly literal, sometimes gruesome, dipictions of pain and fear. That is not a problem here; in fact, quite the opposite.

The gems of the show are the thirteen gouache drawings. This is particularly interesting given the imagery – graphic birthing scenes and nudes of pregnant women that depict the fetus in utero – and the fact that they are all painted in blood red on a flat white background. Crudely painted to the point of being almost abstract, with edges blurred by the watery gouache, they are approachable and, somehow, sad. They reveal themselves slowly; from the forms emerge a baby’s head from between two legs, and oversized breasts. These are solitary women, swollen and alone. Slightly more abstract, and quiet, are the two medium-size bronze sculptures. From Bourgeois’s “Echo” series, these are casts of sweaters that had been soaked and stuffed; they’re both painted white. Hinting at the human figure, the sagging, drooping forms poetically speak to emptiness, aging, and death.

Intimate, shocking, scary, viseral, beautiful, Bourgeois here succeeds as only someone with years of experience at her craft and art, and a long life of intense and moving experiences fully felt, is able. She gets to you where it counts.

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