Cheim & Read is pleased to present an exhibition of hanging works by renowned French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010). The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue with a text by Robert Pincus-Witten.
The sculptures in this exhibition all hang from the ceiling. Along with a group of drawings from the 1940s, in which pendulous forms are delineated in black ink, the selection of works traces the theme of suspension throughout Bourgeois’s long career. Spanning more than forty-five years – from the organic Lair forms of the early 1960s and the Janus series of 1968, to the cloth figures of the 1990s, the hanging heads of the 2000s, and the torqued spirals of shining aluminum made in the last years of Bourgeois’s life – they demonstrate the myriad ways in which she approached material, form, and scale. They also affirm the various readings of Bourgeois’s work, whether formal, psychological, biographical, or experiential. For Bourgeois, the sculptures’ suspension is an expression of the psyche; as she stated: “Horizontality is a desire to give up, to sleep. Verticality is an attempt to escape. Hanging and floating are states of ambivalence.” In psychology, ambivalence refers to conflicting but coexisting feelings for the same person, place, or event. The many dualities at play within Bourgeois’s oeuvre (organic/geometric; rigid/pliable; male/female) provide this condition with fertile ground.
The very physicality of Bourgeois’s work – its density and weight – is offset by the seemingly effortless, floating state in which they are presented. Eschewing the traditional sculptural base, Bourgeois positions her work in dialogue with the viewer and surrounding environment. Tethered to the ceiling but by no means static, her sculptures have the potential to revolve on their axes, providing a sense of movement and instability. The implied vulnerability is especially profound in works like the polished bronze Arch of Hysteria (1993), in which a male figure hangs from a cord attached at the pelvis; the double-headed fabric Arch of Hysteria (2004), in which male and female torsos are fused and hung at the waist; or the bronze Femme (2005), which is suspended by the figure’s pregnant abdomen. Other works are similarly evocative.