This week, the art world remembers Louise Bourgeois (see the articles in The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times ).
"Petite in size, gruff of voice and manner", Louise Bourgeois, a French-born American artist who gained fame only late in a long career, is known for her psychologically charged abstract sculptures, drawings and prints that had a galvanizing effect on the work of younger artists, particularly women.
"Ms. Bourgeois’s sculptures in wood, steel, stone and cast rubber, often organic in form and sexually explicit, emotionally aggressive yet witty, covered many stylistic bases. But from first to last they shared a set of repeated themes centered on the human body and its need for nurture and protection in a frightening world."
Perhaps the most provocative was “Fillette” (1968), a large, detached latex phallus. Ms. Bourgeois can be seen carrying this object, nonchalantly tucked under one arm, in a portrait by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe taken for the catalog of her 1982 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (In the catalog, the Mapplethorpe picture is cropped to show only the artist’s smiling face.)
In 1993 she represented the United States in the Venice Biennale. In an art world where women had been treated as second-class citizens and were discouraged from dealing with overtly sexual subject matter, she quickly assumed an emblematic presence.
Her 1994 exhibition entitled “Louise Bourgeois: Locus of Memory, Works 1982-1993,” in which the central image was a spider, is based on a creature she associated with her mother, a woman of ever-changing moods. (More books and videos on Louise Bourgeois in our collection).
Ms. Bourgeois was named Officer of The Order of Arts and Letter by the French minister of culture in 1983. The National Medal of Arts was presented to her by President Bill Clinton in 1997.