Louise Bourgeois’ Guarantee of Sanity, ‘An Unfolding Portrait’ at MoMA

Celebrated sculptor, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) had her first real retrospective, at the Museum of Modern Art at the age of seventy-one. Bourgeois worked well into her nineties, leaving behind a body of work spanning over 70 years of her past and present self.

You might best, be familiar with her colossal bronze and steel Spider sculptures (odes to her mother) that loom high above your head on delicate, spindly legs.  Or her Cell enclosures, those emotional retreats situated within various structures, housing collections of objects, tapestries and sculptural forms to evoke safe spaces for one’s anxieties and fears.

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Bourgeois used art as a release for her feelings, once stating that “art is the guarantee of sanity.” Her creativity and her life merged evocatively, creatively cataloged within a substantive range of artistic mediums, thus propelling her into a rightful place as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.

Fittingly, a celebration of her life’s work, comes back to New York City, back to MoMA in the new exhibit, Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait. 

Here you will see the little-known aspects of Bourgeois’ artistic practices­ before she turned definitively to sculpture.

Curator Deborah Wye digs deeper into Bourgeois’ earlier years, juxtaposing rarely seen prints and illustrated books with thematic groupings of sculptures, drawings, and paintings, “exploring motifs of architecture, the body, and nature, as well as investigations of abstraction.”

The prize of the show sit’s in the museum’s Marron Atrium – Spider, one of the series of Cells that Bourgeois created over the last two decades of her career, and the only one of Bourgeois’ sixty-two Cells that brings together the spider and cell structure.

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Louise Bourgeois, “Spider,” 1997, steel, tapestry, wood, glass, fabric, rubber, silver, gold, and bone. 14′ 9″ × 21′ 10″× 17′, collection The Easton Foundation

Nearly 15ft tall, the steel spider sculpture crouches over a Cell, the door of its caged barrier between the interior world of Bourgeois and viewer, left slightly ajar. A chair adorned with unraveling tapestry sits inside; worn, somewhat less vivid tapestry drapes sections of the cage lending to connotations of restoring, and repairing oneself through art.

Another gallery showcases paintings that unabashedly layout Bourgeois’ affinity for the opposite sex, as her depictions eroticize the body well into a time where youth imagines age does not follow.

You explore Bourgeois’ time as a printmaker, finding the Spider motif beginnings sketched out on paper before becoming featured heavily in her sculpture work.  Even her frequent use of the spiral as a symbol for a twisting and strangling of emotion flows in and out of her early repertoire.

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A romanticized version exists at Dia: Beacon. The Couple is an unfiltered, inherently, freer manner of speech.

 In, An Unfolding Portrait, MoMA examines an earlier example of that imagery controlling the relationship of this talk in Spiral Woman.

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Louise Bourgeois’ Spiral Woman, 1984, at MoMA

This study is genuinely Louie’s last act, her vocabulary of imagery – A lifetime of abstracted emotion in context.

 Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait runs at MoMA September 24, 2017–January 28, 2018

Both Dia: Beacon & MASS MoCA house substantial sculpture work from Louise Bourgeois in their permanent collections.

*Article previously written for and featured in Azure Azure Magazine.

 

 

We Saw It And Loved It: Our Top Art Exhibitions of 2017

Sadly, our Wish List of ‘Must See Exhibitions’ was too extensive to cover. What we saw and loved made our list of Top Art Exhibitions of 2017. Thankfully, most of these shows run through 2018. If you haven’t seen them, here’s your convincer.

 

Third Space, Shifting Conversations about Contemporary Art at Birmingham Museum of Art

January 28, 2017 – January 6, 2019

Ebony G. Patterson Among the weeds, plants and peacock feathers, 2014 (Mixed Media) Photo: Ginger Rudolph for HAHAMAG

Third Space is “an imagined place that ties cultures together by their common experiences and considers the voices of people who are often unheard.”  The exhibition opens up that dialogue with over 100 contemporary art pieces – most culled from the museums’ own collection.

Your journey is tied to reference points that guide you in finding personal meaning within the art. The sections are: representation/agency/gaze, tradition/memory/history, landscape/nature/spirit, and migration/diaspora/exile.

Third Space will run for 2 years, during that time the works of art will change every 6 months, shifting your travels.

Photographs, sculptures, and paintings are just a few of the mediums represented here along with a rich multitude of artistic representation from Alabama, Brazil, Cuba and South Africa – to name a few. We’re talking heavy hitters like Kerry James Marshall, Ebony G. Patterson, Mark Bradford, José Bedia, Thornton Dial, and William Christenberry.

Here are our TOP 10 works of art from the first 6 months of the exhibition.

 

James Turrell at Mass Moca

On view, at least through 2018

Perfectly Clear (Ganzfeld), 1991 Gift of Jennifer Turrell © James Turrell, Photo by Florian Holzherr

MASS MoCA is currently exhibiting Into the Light, a James Turrell retrospective bringing together light installations from every stage of the 74-year-old artist’ five-decade career.

I often say there are only two types of Turrell people: The Believers and the Unimpressed. Even then, I remain unmoved in my theorizing they just haven’t met their Turrell moment yet.

Turrell has often acknowledged this disconnect in contemporary art between the audience and the artist; “Generally, audiences are looking towards what they like, and I can tell you, that’s the last thing on an artist’s mind… I don’t know if I believe in art. I certainly believe in light.” Mass MoCA has laid this exhibition out to dazzle even the unbelievers with Turrell’s intimate relationship between perception, light and time.

There are nine Turrell rooms to experience in the expanded exhibition space of MASS MoCA’s newly opened, Building 6. Perfectly Clear (Ganzfeld), a two-story installation, is hands-down, the centerpiece of the retrospective.

Upon entering the room, you are given paper booties to wear.  Attendants escort you up a flight of stairs to a massive opening with curved walls. You step into a white void gradually filled with light and changing colors. It quickly becomes difficult to discern where the walls begin and the ceiling ends, creating a feeling of walking toward what seems a mesmerizing endless expanse.

 

ITEMS: Is Fashion Modern? at MoMA running through January 28th, 2018

Amanda Lopez; Photo: Ginger Rudolph for HAHAMAG

Let’s start off with the first shocker, this is MoMA’s first exhibition on fashion and design in 73 years– BOY did they deliver the goods (pun intended).

Items: Is Fashion Modern? explores the present, past—and sometimes the future—of 111 items of clothing and accessories that have had a strong impact on the world.

What the curators got right is knowing that while inclusivity is important, so is getting the story right.  The show featured items with histories gave an intensive broad view of the times (Zoot Suit Riots?!), and it dug into the microcosms within urban communities. Chameleons like Door Knocker earrings, Dapper Dan Jackets, Hooded Sweatshirt, the Red Bandana, and the Plain White Tee stood in the spotlight– sans a homogenized version of their backgrounds they could truly travel in the truths of where they originated and what varied meanings they have assumed over the years.

Claps all around for Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Michelle Millar Fisher, Curatorial Assistant.  I have never seen museum guards engaging with an exhibition this hard, nor people spending so much time reading the show materials.

 

Show Highlight We Never Thought We’d See

Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait at MoMA running through January 28th, 2018

photo: Ginger Rudolph for HAHAMAG

The French artist and celebrated sculptor Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) had her first real retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) at the age of 71. Bourgeois worked well into her 90s, leaving behind a body of work spanning over 70 years.

A celebration of her life’s work is now showing at MoMA in the new exhibit, Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait.

The prize of the show sit’s in the museum’s Marron Atrium: Spider, one of the series that Bourgeois created over the last two decades of her career, and the only one of Bourgeois’ works that bring together the spider and cell structure.

Nearly 15 feet tall, the steel spider sculpture crouches over a Cell, the door of its caged barrier left slightly ajar. Inside, the upholstery of a chair seems to unfold like a flower, while another tapestry, less vivid and more worn, covers sections of the cell, signifying repair and self-restoration through art.

 

 

Best Show Revival

Video Game @ The Museum of the Moving Image

May 13–January 28, 2018
Changing Exhibitions Gallery

Space Invaders_Video Game Exhibition_Photo: Ginger Rudolph for HAHAMAG

The Museum of the Moving Image brought back last year’s popular Arcade Classics exhibition featuring video arcade games released between 1971 and 1993, drawn from the Museum’s collection.

Though the era of the video arcade game is long gone, arcade games were the grounds for innovation and experimentation that informed the genres, conventions, and play mechanics of the video games that we know today.  This arcade allows visitors to play 23 of the era’s most beloved games (old school tokens & token machines included), in their original form alongside well-researched descriptions of the games origin, creator and notes it’s space in popular culture.

The earliest game on view in Arcade Classics is Computer Space (1971), the first coin-operated video arcade game, created by Nolan Bushnell. The 23 games on view in the exhibition range in genre from early sports games (Atari Football, NBA Jam, Track & Field); fighting games (Karate Champ, Mortal Kombat); driving games (Pole Position, Out Run); puzzle and platformers (Donkey Kong, Frogger, Q*Bert); and a diverse array of “shooters,” many set in space (Asteroids,Galaxian, Defender, Space Invaders, Zaxxon), but also earthbound variations like Centipede.

 

 

 

 

Best Local Show

Reclaimed at The Art Dept 

Philadelphia, PA

Show ended on October 28th, 2017

Suture Self by Emily Carris, Photo: Ginger Rudolph for HAHAMAG

It took a year and a half for the artist, Emily Carris to research and make the objects for her solo show ‘Reclaimed’.

The show hit a nerve, intensifying the narratives of slavery with artifacts and mixed media pieces layered, stitched, dyed and laced with materials we still use in our everyday lives– commodities that lay claim to past and modern-day slavery.

Her show reaffirms that this conversation is still relevant.  We need to lay claim to/understand the history so we know where to find the light to pave our way into an enlightened future.