On Monday, the French-born American sculptor Louise Bourgeois died in her Manhattan home at age 98 of a heart attack.
Born Christmas day in Paris in 1911, Bourgeois came to fame late in her sixties. She is widely regarded as the grand dame of the art world and infused her work with both Modern and contemporary sensibilities. She is perhaps known best for her enormous lissome spiders of bronze named Maman, all executed in the last twelve years and meant as tense odes to her mother. (The spiders are especially beautiful outside, beside the strict rigidity of buildings such as the Museo Capidomonte in Naples.)
Bourgeois's sculpture ranges in style, from coolly echoing the abstract geometry of earlier sculptors like Arp and Noguchi to becoming scences of distilled, ragged violence as in her cells series, such as Arch of Hysteria, 1992-3, and in Destruction of the Father, 1974. But the same emotional themes of sexuality and innocence, authority and victimization, clothing and nakedness, birth and death, care and destruction, and, above all, her own crooked childhood, which she said never lost its magic and terror, permeate all her creations, even the tiniest ones (Femme Couteau, 2001). With few exceptions, hers is a body of work that is jarring, disturbing, and at times suffocating. The Guardian has a slideshow of the dramatically dressed artist (she liked fur and hats) and her art here.
In 2008, the Guggenheim held a retrospective of her work, some of which can be seen here. In a review, WEEKLY STANDARD contributor Lance Esplund argues well that “melodramatic literalness is Ms. Bourgeois's Achilles heel.” (This is also a trait that those inspired by her, such as Kiki Smith and Rebecca Horn, have inherited.) He continues: