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Installations... By Louise Joséphine Bourgeois

Updated: Nov 21, 2023


Louise Joséphine Bourgeois (25 December 1911 – 31 May 2010) was a French-American artist. Bourgeois was born in Paris, France. Her parents owned a gallery that dealt primarily with antique tapestries and a workshop for tapestry restoration.


In 1930, Bourgeois entered the Sorbonne to study mathematics and geometry. In 1932, Bourgeois' mother died, her mother's death inspired Bourgeois to abandon mathematics and begin studying art.


The French painter, sculptor, and filmmaker Joseph Fernand Henri Léger (February 4, 1881 – August 17, 1955) saw her work and told her she was a sculptor, not a painter. Bourgeois graduated from the Sorbonne in 1935. In 1938, she opened her own gallery in a space next door to her father's tapestry gallery.


The Destruction Of The Father 1974 Louise Bougeois
The Destruction Of The Father 1974 Louise Bougeois

Bourgeois in New York City.


Bourgeois settled in New York City with her husband in 1938. She continued her education at the Art Students League of New York, studying painting under the American artist and art instructor Vaclav Vytlacil and also producing sculptures and prints.


Bourgeois's work during the early 1940s was constructed from junkyard scraps and driftwood which she used to carve upright wood sculptures.


Bourgeois struggled during the early 1940s with the obstacles of the transition to a new country and the difficulties of entering the exhibition world of New York City.


Bourgeois had her first solo show in 1945, she received very little attention from the art world, but slowly she developed more artistic confidence. Her conflicts in real life empowered her to authenticate her experiences and struggles through a unique art form.


Though many pieces of her art discussed women's inner world struggles, Bourgeois rejected the idea that her art was feminist, Louise considered her own work "pre-gender." In 1954, Bourgeois joined the American Abstract Artists Group, with several contemporaries, among them Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt.


At this time, she also tied her connections with the artists Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. Being a part of the American Abstract Artists Group had a dramatic impact on her artistic career.


In the late 1960s, her imagery became more explicitly sexual as she explored the relationship between men and women and the emotional impact of her troubled childhood. From 1974 until 1977, Bourgeois taught printmaking and sculpture at the School of Visual Arts in New York.


Bourgeois "bloody Sundays."


In the early 1970s, Bourgeois held gatherings called "bloody Sundays" at her home in Chelsea. The "bloody Sundays" salons would be filled with young artists whose work would be critiqued by Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois's ruthlessness in critique and her dry sense of humor led to the naming of these meetings.


Bourgeois aligned herself with activists and became a member of a feminist anti-censorship "Fight Censorship" group. In the 1970s, the group defended the use of sexual imagery in art. Bourgeois also had a history of activism on behalf of LGBT. Bourgeois's work was inspired by her troubled past as she found temporary catharsis from her childhood years and the abuse she suffered from her father.


Upon entering the "Destruction of the Father (1974)" installation, the viewer stands in the aftermath of a crime. Set in a stylized dining room (with the dual impact of a bedroom), the abstract blob-like children of an overbearing father have rebelled, murdered, and eaten him.


The installation embodies a psychological exploration of the power dominance of the father and his offspring. In the late 1990s, Bourgeois began using the spider as a central image in her art, giving rise to her nickname "Spiderwoman".


"Maman" The largest Bourgeois's spider


The largest spider sculpture titled "Maman" which stands at over 30 feet (9.1 m) alludes to the strength of her mother, with metaphors of spinning, weaving, nurturing, and protection. "Maman" first made an appearance as part of Bourgeois's commission for The Unilever Series for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in 2000.


Louise Bourgeois stated "The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the tapestry restoration business, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother."


Though Bourgeois was a prolific painter and printmaker, Louise's fingerprints were mainly on large-scale sculpture and installation art.


Bourgeois died of heart failure on 31 May 2010 aged 98, Louise's last pieces being finished the week before her death. Sexuality, feminism, death, and unconsciousness were subjects Bourgeois kept discussing in her art until the last day of her life.



Installation art experiences the dissolution of the line between art and life.


Installation art as a form of art had existed since prehistory but was not regarded as a discrete category until the mid-twentieth century. Installation art is an artistic genre of temporary or permanent three-dimensional, interior space, site-specific, and designed to transform the perception of space within museums, galleries, as well as public and private spaces.


Installation as nomenclature for a specific form of art came into use in 1969, as the term was documented by the Oxford English Dictionary. Rather than traditional craft-based sculpture, installations utilize a broad range of everyday evocative quality materials.


Installation art also incorporates video, sound, performance, immersive virtual reality, and the internet. Installation art is site-specific in that they are designed to exist only in the space for which they were created.


Installation art is a departure from traditional sculpture which places its focus on form. Installation art came to prominence in the 1970s, but its roots can be identified in earlier artists' works.


In 1849, Richard Wagner used the term Gesamtkunstwerk, when he discussed unifying all art forms via the theatre. later during the beginning of the 20th century, the French painter and sculptor Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp (28 July 1887 – 2 October 1968) introduced the idea of "Readymades" which were found objects Duchamp chose and presented as art.


Installation art experiences the dissolution of the line between "art" and "life" where the "intention" of the artist is paramount. installation art could be interactive when artists give the audience the chance to reveal the meaning of the installation. Another expansion of the art boundaries is immersive virtual reality art which is probably the most deeply interactive form of art.


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