Louise Bourgeois | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
Pin It

Louise Bourgeois 

On the Cover | September 2017

click to enlarge Nature Study (Velvet Eyes) by Louise Bourgeois
  • Nature Study (Velvet Eyes) by Louise Bourgeois

Even set deep into a rectangular slab of marble, eyes have an unequivocally humanizing effect. In Nature Study (Velvet Eyes) by Louise Bourgeois, they feel wide and cartoonish. With the absence of a mouth, they seem innocent in their speechlessness. The piece is both whimsical and haunting. In some ways, it is the perfect example of Bourgeois's oeuvre.

Born in Paris, Bourgeois moved to New York with her American husband in 1938, going on to become both an American citizen and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. She died in 2010, leaving a legacy of artwork in a variety of media, from drawing and painting to sculpture and installation. Through the themes of domesticity, sexuality, mortality, and the subconscious, Bourgeois articulated the intimate traumas and tensions of her psyche and emotional landscape, using whatever materials necessary to transform repression into physical form. Before her death, Bourgeois said, "The artist has the privilege of being in touch with his or her unconscious and this is really a gift—it is the definition of insanity; it is the definition of self-realization."

Frances Morris, director of the Tate Modern in London, who curated a retrospective of Bourgeois's work in 2007 and conducted extensive interviews with her, said, "What I think is very interesting about Louise Bourgeois is that she had this very traumatic and vivid childhood. And I think that Bourgeois realized early on that she needed that trauma, that she fed off it." She described Bourgeois as an unexpectedly tiny and ferociously intelligent woman. Of working with hard materials such as marble, which she began to use in the 1960s while in Italy, Bourgeois said, "The resistance of the material is part of the process. I can express myself only in desperate fighting position."

In Nature Study (Velvet Eyes), the majority of the stone slab has been left rough while the side which peers out at the viewer has been smoothed to seem skin-like. It's the juxtaposition of polarities (hard and soft materials, humorous and serious elements) which make Bourgeois's work so layered and evocative. The piece is on exhibit at MASS MoCA's new Building 6, the Robert W. Wilson Building, with a small group of Bourgeois's marble sculptures, many of which have never been seen before in the United States.

Writes Mass MoCA curator Susan Cross, "Together, the intimate selection of works illustrates the power of Bourgeois's unique work to articulate the ineffable fervencies of anguish and passion that define the human condition, and to picture the yawning desire for connection that keeps our ultimate solitude at bay."

Building 6 just opened in May, and doubles the museum's square footage, making Mass MoCA the largest contemporary art museum in America. One Bourgeois sculpture, Pass, weighs 15 tons, which required that the gallery be built specially to house the exhibit.

Nature Study (Velvet Eyes) is on view at Mass MoCA at least until 2018. Massmoca.org.

—Hillary Harvey

Speaking of...

  • Wilderstein Outdoor Sculpture Biennial
  • Wilderstein Outdoor Sculpture Biennial

    The Wilderstein Outdoor Sculpture Biennial returns with 18 new installations.
    • Jul 2, 2017
  • On the Cover: Christopher Kurtz
  • On the Cover: Christopher Kurtz

    Kingston-based artist and furniture craftsman Christopher Kurtz's Untitled (Fallen Star).
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Columbus Day Weekend happenings at Omi!
  • Columbus Day Weekend happenings at Omi!

    Opening receptions for Nicole Cherubini and Remy Jungerman, Oct. 8 at 2 PM in the gallery; Kahn+Selesnick update Freya Powell's zeotrope with new imagery; Steam Canoe installation is underway, and Ward Shelly + Alex Schweder take a final spin in ReActor!
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • More »
Pin It


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Carrie On

    • May 1, 2016
  • RUPCO's Lace Mill: Collaborative Catalyst

    A positive effect on the community can come from artists having a space with the opportunity to inspire and collaborate with one another; Rupco's Lace Mill is one of those spaces.
    • Feb 1, 2017

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Giant Tag Sale to Benefit Hudson Chorale @ Private Residence

Giant Tag Sale to Benefit Hudson Chorale

Fri., Sept. 22, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sat., Sept. 23, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. — We receive both used and new donated items in a wide variety...
Dancing On The Edge: Isadora Duncan in Russia @ McKenna Theatre

Dancing On The Edge: Isadora Duncan in Russia

Fri., Sept. 22, 7:30-9:30 p.m. and Sat., Sept. 23, 7:30-9:30 p.m. — Raised in New Paltz, actor-director and theater professor Lisa Channer returns to...

View all of today's events

Latest in Visual Art

  • Olana, with The Ancram Opera House, presents an original play in landscape
  • Olana, with The Ancram Opera House, presents an original play in landscape

    Performing Olana: Frederic Church living his art Olana and Ancram Opera House collaborate to produce a theater performance specifically created to take place in the landscape of the historic site. The dramatic work draws inspiration from Frederic Church’s paintings, letters, family life and the celebrated landscape and is presented as an immersive theater experience in which performer and audience journey together into Church's art. FRI 6PM | SAT 2PM, 4PM, 6PM | SUN 2PM, 4PM, 6PM Member: $10, Non-Member: $15, Family (up to 5): $40
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Fall for Art, Juried Art Show, Sale & Fundraising Reception
  • Fall for Art, Juried Art Show, Sale & Fundraising Reception

    Fall for Art, a juried art show, sale and fundraising reception (hosted by the Jewish Federation of Ulster County) Thursday, September 7th at The Chateau in Kingston, 5:00-9:00 pm, features 29 area artists. Reservations: ($45 p/p) at www.fallforart.org, or 845-338-8131.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Related to Visual Art

More by Hillary Harvey

  • Art Walk Kingston

    The second Art Walk Kingston, the self-guided tour of artist studios, lights up Kingston this weekend with art and happenings.
    • Sep 18, 2017
  • Fall 5K and Environmental Fair

    On Sunday, September 17th, the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve will host a 5K Fun Run and Environmental Fair. It’s free and open to the public.
    • Sep 11, 2017
  • Woodstock’s Biennial Drum Boogie Festival

    The Drum Boogie Festival comes to Woodstock only once every two years. Catch it next this Saturday, September 9th.
    • Sep 4, 2017
  • More »

Hudson Valley Tweets