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Friday, May 13, 2016

Louise Bourgeois' 'No Exit' exits the National Gallery of Art Sunday

Louise Bourgeois, M is for Mother, 1998, gift of Dian Woodner.

A small exhibition of 21 drawings, prints, and sculptures made by the existentialist, abstract expressionist, and sometimes surrealist (a style she rejected for herself) Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) will close Sunday at the National Gallery of Art.  

The title of the show, No Exit, stems from a play by Jean-Paul Sartre, an author Ms. Bourgeois admired and frequently quoted.  Her complex family life, her conniving, philandering father, and her obedient mother give additional meaning to and appreciation of Ms. Bourgeois' art.  See what Wikipedia says about Destruction of the Father (not in the show).  

I can't wait to read her biography and hope it's coming out soon.  (This just in:  a new bio. to be published this fall.  Intimate Geometries by Robert Storr. Only $95. I believe I'll wait for the library's copy. With a title like this, the market will open to mathematicians. )

All the works in the exhibition are from the National Gallery's collection or are promised gifts to the Gallery.  One of Ms. Bourgeois' giant spiders is in the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden.
Louise Bourgeois,  Untitled, 1939-1940, promised gift of Tony Podesta.  Shortly after she immigrated to the U.S. in 1938 and settled in New York, Ms. Bourgeois made this image using crayon, ink, and graphite.  On the bow of the ship and separated from the other figures are bell jars containing a likeness of a female torso which, decades later, Ms. Bourgeois said was "cut off from the world....that's me."
Louise Bourgeois, Germinal, 1967, marble, promised gift of Dian Woodner.  Upon request by the Museum Ludwig in Cologne for a design in chocolate (the museum was founded by chocolate fanciers Peter and Irene Ludwig), Ms. Bourgeois submitted this creation 40 years after she composed it.  The label copy speaks to its "sensual nature."  It reminds me of a cow's udders, but there are 11 protruding figures here, meaning...? Or an artist's palette.  Maybe a serving of thumbs. And look!  There are places where more of the protrusions used to be.  Are they fingers or male parts?  Or, what do you make of them, and why are them important?  You see what art can do!  If her biography were for sale at the entrance to the show, I think it would have sold a zillion copies.  Or, maybe, just a million.  Sign me up!

Louise Bourgeois, La tapisserie de mon enfance - montains in Aubusson (Tapestry of My Childhood - Mountains in Aubusson), 1947.  The artist lived with her family as a child in this region of France, known for its tapestries, antiques which her family helped restore and  Ms. Bourgeois worked on them, too. I can almost make out a person here.  Wearing a blindfold.  Two blindfolds.  In a tent. Or a shroud.  Playing underneath the covers.  You see what art can do!  There is "no exit" from thinking about art.  It evolves and springs into something else to keep you thinking about its meaning, its contents, the style, the artist's background, would you hang it in your house? Does it make any difference to you/ And on they go...
Louise Bourgeois, from left, Untitled, 1952, Spring, 1949, and Mortise, 1950.  The artist called these "personages," meant to be seen in groups, and standing on the floor "like people," isolated and detached.  Rather depressing and sad they are.  Separated from each other and of different materials with no links.   The one on the right may be a fat man from China who eats wood (well, they used to feed their babies milk with plastic pieces), the one in the center, a voluptuous Caucasian who is evolving into a flower, the one on the far left, from ?  Where do you think it is from? Bones from a skeleton, from the body farm of deceased humans left outside to decay (in hidden woods) for study at the University of Tennessee, with families' permissions? (They don't do this unless the families or the deceased give a thumbs up, speaking of thumbs.  These are all connected.) An Earthling. No wonder there is no communication between these "personages."  They don't have any way to communicate!  Just like at a party when there is no one like you.  We stand alone, but we are not/Photo by Patricia Leslie.



What: Louise Bourgeois: No Exit

When: Closing May 15, 2016. The National Gallery of Art is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. every day except Sundays when it is open 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Where: West Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission is always free at the National Gallery of Art.

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information:
202-842-6941

patricialesli@gmail.com

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