Long denied due recognition, Louise Bourgeois became an ‘avant-garde superstar’ and is today considered ‘a great figure of the post modern’ (Peter Weiermair), even though fame did not reach the American artist until the second half of her life. “My luck was that I became famous so late that fame could not destroy me.” (Louise Bourgeois) With the exhibition Aller–Retour the Kunsthalle Wien dedicates Louise Bourgeois, the now 94-year-old artist, what is probably the most important exhibition of her late opus. Some 150 works will be shown in six rooms thematically based around central sculptures and themes such as ‘rivers’, ‘spiders’ and ‘proverbs/apercus’.
One room offers a retrospective of older works by the French born artist. The focus of the show however lies on the oeuvre of the last ten years, the majority of which are diary-like drawings, in which text and symbols frequently mingle.
The exhibition’s French title Aller–Retour refers both to Louise Bourgeois’ French origins and the nature of her artistic practice – an uninterrupted process of research into identity and a return to the psychological conflicts of her childhood and adolescence, principally to the problematic relationship with her father. The interrelation of past and present and the use of the image of the mesh and the metaphor of weaving – Bourgeois’ father ran a business restoring tapestries – symbolically amount to a work of remembrance and a coming to terms with psychological crises.
The Kunsthalle Wien shows the artist’s later works as a dialogue between sculpture and drawing. Since the 1980s, the works of Louise Bourgeois have followed the prevalent notion of art that rejects universal style and formal understanding in favour of a personal approach. The artist’s central concern lies in overcoming conflicts and the establishment of an intense, open discussion on the dialectics of thoughts and feelings.
For a younger generation of artists, Louise Bourgeois represents a mother figure, a star, possessing a mythical status as an example of art as a means for coping with life. Despite her age, she still holds weekly sessions where young artists can present and discuss their work. She is seen as authentic and challenging, a moral as well as an artistic authority.
This show is part of a series of monographic Kunsthalle Wien exhibitions of key figures of modern art such as Yayoi Kusama (2002), Marcel Broodthaers (2003) and Eva Hesse (2004).
The curator of the exhibition is Peter Weiermair, director of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna (2001-2005), who in 1989 organised the first European retrospective of Louise Bourgeois’ (in Germany, Switzerland and France).
To accompany the exhibition a catalogue will be published in German and English with texts by Peter Weiermair and Philip Larratt-Smith, an interview with Louise Bourgeois by Gerald Matt as well as a foreword by Gerald Matt, circa 196 pages.
Louise Bourgeois with Spider IV, in 1996.
Photo by Peter Bellamy