Cheim & Read
New York, 547 West 25th Street
Louise Bourgeois: Spiral, Cheim & Read’s ninth solo exhibition devoted to the artist’s work. The show explores the range of Bourgeois’ spiral motifs as expressed in sculpture, painting, and drawing, from the early 1950s through 2010, the year of her death. It also includes a series of spiral word drawings made on blue paper in 1986.
In materials as diverse as wood, steel, bronze, latex, marble, plaster, resin, hemp, lead, ink, pencil, crayon, woodcut, watercolor, and gouache, Bourgeois investigates every imaginable manifestation of the spiral, from graphic patterns to graphite whorls, wobbly orbits to chiseled vortices, twisted columns to coiling snakes, staircases, and pyramids. The cursive blue-paper word drawings, in English and French, complement the purely visual works by conveying the spirit of Bourgeois’ poetry in extraordinary pictorial forms.
In a statement recorded in the book, Louise Bourgeois: Designing For Free Fall by Christine Meyer-Thoss (Zurich: Ammann Verlag, 1992), the artist has called the spiral “an attempt at controlling the chaos. It has two directions. Where do you place yourself, at the periphery or at the vortex?” The spiral is simultaneously “the fear of losing control” and the experience of “giving up control; of trust, positive energy, of life itself.”
She has also stated, as quoted by Ann Coxon in Louise Bourgeois (London: Tate Publishing, 2010), “The spiral is important to me. It is a twist. As a child, after washing tapestries in the river, I would turn and twist and wring them… Later I would dream of my father’s mistress. I would do it in my dreams by wringing her neck. The spiral — I love the spiral — represents control and freedom.”
Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911 and lived in New York from 1938 until her death in 2010. She was named Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French minister of culture in 1983. Other honors included the Grand Prix National de Sculpture from the French government in 1991; the National Medal of Arts, presented to her by President Bill Clinton in 1997; the first lifetime achievement award from the International Sculpture Center in Washington, DC; and election as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1993 she was chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Her work appears in the most important museum collections worldwide and has been the subject of several major traveling retrospectives organized by the Tate Modern, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Brooklyn Museum; and The Kunstverein, Frankfurt. In 2016, Cheim & Read presented Louise Bourgeois: Holograms, the first New York exhibition devoted exclusively to this little-known aspect of the artist’s long, groundbreaking career.
The exhibition runs through December 22.