Sunday, 8 October 2017

Personal Threads: Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait, by Uma Nair, India, Guest Post

Louise Bourgeois, from her Fabric Book [Image Courtsey MOMA/Uma Nair]

“Clothing exercise of memory...
It makes me explore the past...
how did I feel when I wore that..

                                                -  Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois, threads in a spidery format -
her favourite theme, [image sourced from internet]

MOMA will have a select retrospective of Louise Bourgeois opening at the end of this month [September 2017 – January 2018]. Among the many drawings sculptures and prints will be a fabric book created by her, which I saw as an exhibition in Washington DC in 1997.
Why do I a humble critic from India consider it a personal thread ?
The magic power of the Needle - Louise Bourgeois quote 1992, [image sourced from internet]
I read and researched about Bourgeois and realised that she held thread and needles as close to her as confidants. Bourgeois’ connection to fabric goes back to her childhood years when she helped out in her family’s tapestry restoration workshop. As an adult, she long associated the act of sewing with repairing on a symbolic level, as she attempted to fix the damage she caused in personal relationships. She even held a special regard for spools of thread and needles as tools -she considered important instruments in the service of man.
Louise Bourgeois - another fabric creation
 on her best known theme of spiders
[image sourced from internet]

Fabric became her ally-her medium of dreams and fantasies and her narrator-fabric became her sculptural element .In the 1990s, as she began to mine material from clothes accumulated over a lifetime. She hung old dresses, slips, and nightwear in installations, and then manipulated timeworn terry cloth into nearly life-size figures or eerie portrait-like heads.
Louise Bourgeois Pink Days and Blue Days. 1997.
Steel, fabric, bone, mixed media.
 Collection Whitney Museum of American Art
[image sourced from internet]

 In 1999, she hired a seamstress, Mercedes Katz, to help with this work and set her up in a workshop-like area on the lower level of her house, where she also installed two small printing presses. By 2000, Bourgeois had turned to printing on old handkerchiefs, and then other fabrics. She also constructed books of fabric collages.

Louise Bourgeois - Spider [image courtsey MOMA/Uma Nair]
Printing on fabric was a major preoccupation of Bourgeois’s later years and she highly valued her collaboration with Katz and the various printers with whom she worked. The greatest lesson in honesty came from her sharing the truth about her collaborations. The old fabrics  resonated with memories .She made use of technology, and  took advantage of digital possibilities for duplicating aging or fading effects. In contrast to her prints and books on paper, Bourgeois’s fabric works have a tactile presence that gives them a decidedly sculptural dimension. Delicacy of line and an intensity of poise and purpose define her fabric books. Of course her greatest work The Spider 1997  is a sublime collaboration of Steel, tapestry, wood, glass, fabric, rubber, silver, gold and bone .
Louise Bourgeois, Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999,
Steel, 35 ft in height, Tate Modern, London [image sourced from internet]
Her words stand as a symbolism for all ages. “The spider—why the spider? Because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider.”
Louise Bourgeois
[image sourced from internet]
‘Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait’ at MOMA, for architectural digest is currently on display  till January 2018. It explores the prints, books, and creative process of the celebrated sculptor Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), whose extraordinary creative process is the organizing principle behind the exhibition, highlighting the themes constantly revisited in her art, all of which emerged from emotions she struggled with for a lifetime.Uma Nair has reviewed this exhibition for Architecural Digest.
Uma Nair is art critic of 30 years.  She considers multiple media, including textiles, as one of the greatest testimonies of art that can last a lifetime. In an India that has been invaded by western wear she still wears saris that go back 30 to 40 years. She writes as critic for Architectural Digest, The Hindu and Millennium Post, other than her own blog PlUMAge on Times of India.

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