notes from louise bourgeois

I am kicking myself that I missed her retrospective at the Guggenheim this past summer (we were in NY for a wedding! We could have seen it!). Flying to London or Paris to see it at the Tate or Pompidou isn’t really an option–so I took advantage of some expiring Southwest credits to see the abbreviated version at the downtown MoCA.


  • LB’s Poeta en Nueva York moment, a small chap book of parable poems/engravings called He Disappeared Into Compete Silence:

“Once there was a girl and she loved a man.
They had a date next to the eighth street station of the sixth avenue subway.
She put on her good clothes and a new hat. Somehow he could not come. So the purpose of this picture is to show how beautiful she was. I really mean that she was beautiful.”

“Once a man was telling a story, it was a very good story too, and it made him very happy, but he told it so fast that nobody understood it.”

  • On a piece called “Persistent Antagonism”: “The macho bit is irritating. I have nothing against the penis. It is the wearer of the penis.”
  • From “Personages”: “Separate sections function as antannae as if the piece has an internal ‘radar’ which makes it sensitive to its surroundings.”
  • Spider as metaphor for matriarch: weaving, trapping prey, eating, laying eggs, protecting web
  • Directness of imagery:

a guillotine hangs over a beautifully sculpted in pink marble rendering of her childhood home.
prosthetic leg as symbol of emotional disability
hybrid eye/vagina

  • Unashamed of presentation of self:

when afraid, Bourgeois often identifies with animals
self portrait as gargoyle with multiple breasts
dinner table with oppressive father’s remains, being eaten by his children
nails in the heart of an old enemy
a woman’s upper half enclosed in a house–lower half naked–woman doesn’t realize what she is trying to conceal is what is exposed

  • Finally:
“It is not so much
where my motivation
comes from
but rather
how it manages
to survive”

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