This presentation of the work of Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) highlights the artist's exploration of autobiography and identity.
Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris, France but lived and worked in New York from 1938. She studied at the Sorbonne and the École des Beaux-Arts, cultivating early associations with Surrealism. Bourgeois worked across painting, sculpture, installation and printmaking, making work that explored, over her long career, individuality and family relationships; the body, sexuality and trauma; history and memory. She was associated with the women’s art movement and her work has been extensively explored in relation to feminism.
The exhibition includes works from pivotal moments in Bourgeois’ long career, from her 1947 Untitled painting, to her 1967 bronze Tits, and a late example of her important cell series, Cell XIV (Portrait) (2000).
The central aim of this selection, however, is to highlight Bourgeois’ exploration of autobiography and identity, beginning with the tortured figure in the early self-portrait and moving to her exploration of interiority and exteriority in Cell XIV. The most recent work, À L’infini (2008–9), with its series of twisting, spiralling and interconnecting red lines – made toward the end of the artist’s life – traces the possibility of infinite afterlives in the bloodlines of family.
The exhibition includes loans from the wider Tate collection to expand the narrative from the figurative into the abstract, including a selection of etchings from 2006 and 2007, a complement to À L’infini. These monochromatic works, large in scale, depict ambiguous biological forms; some body-part-like, others foliate, all playing with the tenets of the drawn and printed line. The etchings are important in providing an index of Bourgeois’ career-long concern with amorphous form.