Exhibition Review: Louise Bourgeois: Late Works

Exhibition Review: Louise Bourgeois: Late Works and Louise Bourgeois and Australian artists Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Louise Bourgeois - Cinq - 2007 - photo Heide Museum

Louise Bourgeois  Cinq  (2007)

Photo Christopher Burke

Thanks to a series of unexpected events, I was able to make a flying visit to Melbourne at the end of last year, and a very very flying visit to the wonderful Heide Museum and two exhibitions relating to Louise Bourgeois – one containing works she created in the last 20 years of her life (she died in 2010 aged 98) and the other of works by contemporary Australian artists influenced by Bourgeois.

I’ve been a great admirer of Bourgeois’ work for many years, but seeing this show while being in a ‘textiles’ head space was mind-blowing.  I find it difficult to write about because it was so emotionally affecting. I bought the exhibition catalogue and plan to read it and enter more deeply into individual works, but for this blog post I just wanted to present an overview that captures the brevity of my visit and also attempts to record my visceral, teary and sort-of anxious response.

From the age of 85, Bourgeois started to mine her wardrobes for garments she had worn and collected over the decades, and used them to make sculptures and cloth drawings giving expression to her lifelong themes of fear, desire, family, remorse, loneliness, anger and love.

I think the medium of textiles – garments, cloth, stitching – is one of the main reasons I was so affected by these works. You can feel her – her age, her pain, her determination – in the uneven stitches, fabric moulded into faces and bodies and body parts. The work also made me think of my grandmother – a seamstress born around the same time as Bourgeois and until recently still sewing, mending, altering, patching. It is a way of understanding the world and of trying to fix it. Very inspiring.

Louise Bourgeois in 2009

Louise Bourgeois in 2009

Photo Alex Van Gelder

I’ll keep this to a blog length and write about specific works from both exhibitions in future posts. The second exhibition includes works by Del Kathryn Barton, Joy Hester, Pat Brassington and Patricia Piccinini amongst others. It’s really well-curated and the works are in dialogue with the works in the first exhibition in sometimes interesting ways.

Both exhibitions are worth visiting – any OCA-ers in Melbourne or who have a chance to visit Melbourne before the exhibitions finish on 11 March: highly recommended.

I have mixed feelings about seeing this work just before I started the degree: it has demonstrated the high quality and deep impact that can be achieved with the medium of textiles, and given me wonderful inspiration… but a small part of me wishes that I had seen this work later, when I have better grasp of the language of textiles and starting to develop my own direction. I think I’m going to be greatly influenced by this work…

I didn’t take photos of the exhibition – I was at Heide so briefly I had to chose between experiencing and recording, I couldn’t do both. I think I made the right decision…

For information see Heide Museum.

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One thought on “Exhibition Review: Louise Bourgeois: Late Works

  1. sounds like a great exhibition. I hope you get to see it again after more time in the course. I’m not familiar with Louise Bourgeois’ work, so thanks for writing about her. will definitely explore more.

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