|Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, 1952, Spring, 1949 and Mortise, 1950 National Gallery of Art|
Two separate exhibitions in Washington at the moment illustrate the commonality of modern art and prehistoric -- especially in sculpture. The me, that theme resonates with two sculptors who lived through most of the 20th century, Louise bourgeois and Isamu Noguchi. The National Gallery has a two-room exhibition Louise Bourgeois: No Exit, and Noguchi (hopefully in another blog) works are a major part of the Hirshhorn's exhibition, Surrealist Sculpture: From Paris to New York.
|Constantin Brancusi, Endless Column,1937|
|Henry Moore, Interior and Exterior Forms|
The sculpture of Spring center above is reminiscent of a woman, or of the ancient Venus figures, which date to the Paleolithic era, around 20,000 BCE. It can be compared the the elongated marble burial figures from prehistoric, Cycladic Greece as well.
|"Venus" figures from Dolni Vestinici, Willendorf, Austria and Lespuge, France|
Henry Moore's Interior and Exterior Forms, near the sculpture garden of the Hirshhorn is a theme he did over and over, an archetype of the mother and child. Bourgeois's sculptural art is generally rougher and has less refined simplicity works of Moore and Brancusi. In 1967, the Ludwig Mas chocolate company in Cologne, Germany asked for one of her sculptures to be replicated in a single large piece of chocolate. She chose Germinal, its name suggestive of germination and new beginnings. (Germinal is also the name of Emile Zola's famous French novel of 19th century coal minors. I wouldn't put it past her to be referring to the story, but don't have an idea as to how and why)
|Germinal, 1967, promised gift of Dian Woodner, copyright|
Bourgeois, who died in 2010, lived to be 98 years. She continually worked and invented anew. In time, I think she will be considered a giant among the sculptors of the 20th century, on par with Moore, Brancusi and Calder. Her art was more varied than the others and she defied categorization and/or predictability. However, certain themes seemed to carry her for long periods of time, such as the personages of her early to middle period and the cells she did late in her life. She worked both vary large and very small and with an infinite variety of materials including fiber. She grew up in a family which worked in the tapestry business, primarily repairing antique tapestries. To her, making art was making reparations making peace with the past. Some wish to put her in the category of Surrealism, but she calls herself an Existentialist, in the philosophical realm of Jean-Paul Sartre. Looking at some of the drawings in the National Gallery and how she explained it does give a clue into the existential thoughts and feelings.
|Spider, 2003 (not in exhibition)|
|Bull-leaping acrobat, ivory, from Palace at Knossos, Crete, c. 1500 BCE|
|Eye Bench, 2005, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle|
When I went to the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle back in 2010, a friend of mine from California and I came upon her Eye Benches. We sat down and enjoyed it. In the end, it seems Bourgeois used her art to make sense of her very complicated world and our experience of that world, but maybe she doesn't quite grasp and make sense of it all. So she laughs at it, and laughs at us with all our serious endeavors. This calls for a good laugh and relaxation.
|Louise Bourgeois, Eye Bench, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle.|