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Untitled

2004
Aluminium
Edition of 6
166 x 107 x 64 cm / 65 ½ x 42 x 25 in

Untitled

2004
Aluminium
Edition of 6
183 x 107 x 117 cm / 72 x 42 x 46 in

Internationally renowned artist Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911. Although she lived in New York from 1938 and until her death in 2010, much of her inspiration was derived from her early childhood in France. Using the body as a primary form, Bourgeois explored the full range of the human condition. From intimate drawings to room size installations, she was able to give her fears a physical form in order to exorcise them. Memories, sexuality, love, and abandonment are the core of her complex body of work.

Delicately suspended in the air, these large-scale sculptures, so often displayed as a pair, exude the sophistication and tenderness that permeates Bourgeois’s work. Despite often being shown together, the individuality of each form is clearly pronounced. Gently rotating and revolving from their two single points, they capture the reflection of their environment and each other in a continuously morphing display. Evoking the structural phenomena of the natural world, the sculptures recall curvaceous beehives—beautiful, complex and possibly threatening—as well as abstracted anatomical hearts.

‘The spiral is the beginning of movement in space. As opposed to the rigidity of the monolith, the subject is exploring space.’—Louise Bourgeois [1]

The spiral is a consistent motif in Bourgeois’s work, and can be found in her sculpture, painting, and drawings from the 1950s to as late as 2010. It relates to her deep interest in mathematics (she studied solid geometry and differential calculus at the Sorbonne), and directly references her family’s tapestry restoration atelier, in which the heavy textiles would be twisted and wrung out during the dyeing and mending process. In 1996, a similar pair of sculptures, ‘Les Bienvenus’ (1995), was installed in Le Parc de la Mairie of Choisy-le-Roi, in the village where Bourgeois spent the early years of her childhood.

‘The Spiral is important to me. It is a twist. As a child, after washing the tapestries in the river, I would turn and twist and wring them with three others or more to ring the water out. Later I would dream of getting rid of my father’s mistress. I would do it in my dreams by ringing her neck. The spiral – I love the spiral – represents control and freedom.’ [2]

In two early 1950s sculptures, Bourgeois staggered segmented pieces of wood around a central pole, invoking movement despite the rigidity of her materials. In the early 1960s, she embraced the possibilities of suspending a work in the air, going against a tradition of grounding and elevating sculptures on a plinth or base. By doing so, Bourgeois drew attention to the sculptures’ physicality—their density and weight—which was then countered by their deceptively floating state.

Louise Bourgeois, Spiral Woman, 1951-1952
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

This tension between opposing forces is also echoed by the spiral’s two directions: for Bourgeois, turning inwards represented a state of withdrawal, while turning outwards was an opening up, and an act of trust. The spiral symbolizes natural cycles of life and death, but also psychological states of anxiety, fear, and ‘an attempt at controlling the chaos.’ [3]

Created in the twilight years of her career, these masterworks reflect the thematic concerns and intense emotions that defined Bourgeois’s illustrious practice while highlighting her ceaseless innovation and historic contribution to contemporary art. Accordingly, these two sculptures brilliantly demonstrate Bourgeois’s ability to craft a poignant and profound narrative through abstraction and personal symbolism.

‘Horizontality is a desire to give up, to sleep. Verticality is an attempt to escape. Hanging and floating are states of ambivalence.’—Louise Bourgeois [4]

Hauser & Wirth Southampton

Our Southampton gallery is open this summer from Wednesday to Saturday, 11 am – 6 pm, Sunday, 12 – 5 pm, and by appointment. View these outdoor sculptures by Louise Bourgeois alongside a solo exhibition of recent work by Los-Angeles-based artist Henry Taylor.

Learn more

[1] Louise Bourgeois, quoted in Alain Kirili, ‘The Passion for Sculpture: A Conversation with Louise Bourgeois,’ in Arts Magazine (New York, NY), vol. 63, no.7, March 1989, p. 74.
[2] Louise Bourgeois, quoted in Paul Gardner, ‘Louise Bourgeois’, New York NY: Universe Publishing, 1994, p. 68.
[3] Marie-Laure Bernadac, H-U Obrist (eds.), ‘Louise Bourgeois. Destruction of the Father Reconstruction of the Father’, London/UK: Violette, 1998, pp. 222-223.
[4] Louise Bourgeois, quoted in John Cheim and Jerry Gorovoy, eds., ‘Louise Bourgeois Drawings’, New York NY: Robert Miller Gallery, 1988, p. 109.

Images: Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, 2004 © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY. Photo: Thomas Barratt; Louise Bourgeois in 1978. Photo: Carollee Pelos. Art © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY; Louise Bourgeois, Spiral Woman, 1951-1952 © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY. The Museum of Modern Art New York, New York; Hauser & Wirth Southampton. Photo: Genevieve Hanson