This Hayward Touring exhibition showcases prints by one of the most important and influential artists of recent decades, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010).
Best known for her powerful emotionally charged sculptures, steel cage installations and fabric figures, the French-American artist's prolific output grew increasingly expressive throughout her career.
Bourgeois' work always maintained strongly autobiographical themes, centering on her own obsessions and vulnerabilities – loneliness, insecurity, anger, sadness, desire. After many years focusing primarily on sculpture, she returned to printmaking during the latter years of her life – from the 1980s until her death in 2010. The two series in this exhibition were made whilst she was in her 80s. Autobiographical Series (1994) captures some of her deepest thoughts and memories, whilst the set of 11 drypoints (all from 1999) brings these anxieties into more abstract territory.
Featuring familiar motifs, from the pregnant woman to the cat, the prints in these two series are clearly inspired by her obsessions with the human condition. Womb-like figures, stairs and ladders, feet, long hair, clocks, scissors, bathtubs and a pregnant mosquito all contain charged references to memory, with such titles as Empty Nest, Paternity, Please Hang in There and Mother and Child.
Bourgeois enjoyed the sculptural, tactile and physical process of printmaking. This medium gave her the ability to make many changes over the course of an edition. The possibilities of retaining parts of her original drawings while amending others was something that she felt was not available to her in painting or sculpture. She said ‘the whole history of the creative process is there’.
Concurrent with Louise Bourgeois Prints is the Sharmanka Travelling Circus.