Hosted in one of the art rooms the Tate Modern has created for the display of works by individual artists, Louis Bourgeois’ work features themes that are common placed with her general body of work; family, the human body, sexuality, love, death, fear and birth amongst other human experiences.
The extensive use of a wide array of materials which span from the early to late points in her career as an artist is impressive and very engaging. Upon arrival at the exhibition, you’re greeted by an oil painting which is one of her first works created upon moving to New York, a glass cabinet housing a felt torso covered in pink beret’s connected to a spool of blue thread and above the entrance you see one of Bourgeois’s spiders. The room literally comes to life with these works and the display, with works being displayed in central positions in the room, to pieces hanging down from the ceiling, and works adorning the walls.
I was intrigued by the work ”10 am is when you come to me”, a set of 20 individual pieces displayed in a formation of a grid of 10 rows and 2 columns.The 20 works, created utilising watercolour, pencil and gouache on paper, show drawings of hands which tell a tale of connection, friendship and intimacy displayed across a narrative within the collection.
The idea to use red to depict the hands, imply passion/emotions experienced or shared between the hands which that feature in this collection of work. Upon probing, it becomes revealed that the work circles around the relationship between Louise Bourgeois and those of Jerry Groovy who happened to be her long serving assistant for over thirty years, with the title paying reference to the daily time of Gorovoy’s arrival at Bourgeois’ studio or house. The work is also representative of the reliability of the relationship shared between the two individuals in their pursuit towards set goals.
I noticed that the first piece (top left) in the collection actually depicts a clock which features a set of hands set at ten o’clock, and these clock-hands are actually comprised of the hour hand being a nude female figure and the minute hand being a nude male figure, with the title of the piece ’10am is when you come to me’, written in red pigment.
Another keen observation is the use of musical sheets/paper. While it can be conceived that music is an escape route for many from life’s turbulence, I believe it could also be a representation of both her’s and Gorovoy’s hands within the collection of works becoming Louise’ way of communicating that her reliance and relationship with Groovy was an escape route from the harsh circumstances experienced during their period as colleagues.
Putting into consideration that the spider in certain circles is a symbolic representation of mystery, power, growth, cunning, progression, femininity, rebirth, death, resourcefulness, creation, protection & fate (just to mention a few), it then comes as no surprise that the spider sculpture picks up the theme of the arachnid that were first drawn Louise utilising the mediums of ink and charcoal in 1947. This piece attests to the strength of Bourgeois’ mother which figuratively is connected to motherly protection, nurture, spinning and weaving. Since her mother was involved in the reconstruction of tapestries in her father’s textile workshop, multiple connections connection (literal and figurative) are drawn. This is also a main feature in the poem she wrote indication to her mother who died when Louise was much younger.
The idea of exhibiting two dimensional works alongside three dimensional works compliment each other beautifully well. This is displayed in the drawings placed in frames which have been carefully laid out to give the works the desired push creating the creating a three dimensional feel.
Cell XIV (Portriat)
In the other room, a collection of much smaller pieces daubed ”the wunderkammer” or the cabinet of curiosities were displayed.