Un Salon pour Louise Bourgeois

December 17, 2006 – February 17, 2007

Louise Bourgeois, Medardo Rosso, James Ensor, Pierre Bonnard, Joan Miro, Chaïm Soutine, Francis Bacon, Franz Kline, Richard Serra, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jenny Holzer and Robert Gober

To celebrate Louise Bourgeois’ 95th birthday on December 24th 2006, Xavier Tricot was asked by Griet Dupont to organize an exhibition at the Foundation De Elf Lijnen in Oudenburg, near Ostend (Belgium). The title of the exhibition: Un salon pour Louise Bourgeois refers to the “Sunday Salons” that she would hold every week in her house in New York where artists, students, photographers, film makers, curators and amateurs from different spheres could get together and discuss their work and ideas. During these numerous meetings the cross pollination of ideas was not implausible and new friendships were wrought.

We asked Louise Bourgeois to select artists who have a special significance for her. Thus allowing her work to be confronted with works from a diverse selection of artists from different generations and artistic genres. There are works by James Ensor, Pierre Bonnard, Chaïm Soutine, Joan Miro and Medardo Rosso, amongst others. She became acquainted with the work of Bonnard, Miro and Soutine whilst studying in Paris before she left for New York in 1938 after her wedding to the American art historian Robert Goldwater. She first discovered the work of Joan Miro whilst she was still studying in Paris. His art was exhibited regularly at Galerie Pierre near the École des Beaux-Arts where she went to school. His work was a true revelation for her and the expression of a renewed vision of art. In New York during the forties she got to know him personally.

Concerning Miro she said:
His move to Paris was not altogether positive; in his early Catalan landscapes and portraits, and his early abstract work, there was a deep emotion that seems to be lacking in his later years.

She got to know the work of James Ensor in greater depth at the retrospective in Antwerp in 1951. In her answer to the question if she had repressed her childhood years, she cites Ensor:
Yes, in fact, repression is not possible. One realises that sooner or later, repression isn’t possible and it’s very harmful to anyone’s creative life… that’s why, for example, I really like Ensor. Is that the opposite of repression? He tries to say everything, he tries to spout nonsense. The fact is that he was so repressed that he sometimes said the opposite of that which he wanted to say.

Louise Bourgeois was interviewed by George Melrod in October 1994 and asked about the artists that she had known personally:

Who are some of the artists who inspired you?
My favourite artist is Bacon. I like the way he talks and I like his kind of subjects, and I like his rendering. It’s simply true.

Some of your early work almost look like Miro.
Well, my relation with Miro… my dates, you see, have allowed me to know these people personally.

Was Miro a likable guy?
He was a nice person. Bacon was not naive at all. Bacon had a solid intellect, and he loved courage.

I read somewhere that you knew Duchamp.
Yes, right. Duchamp did not trust his emotions. He worked very hard at looking cool. I don’t think that he felt cool. He wanted to put up a good front.

He seemed sexually confused in his work.
Well, let’s not talk about that. [pause] I think Duchamp, if you had asked him that question, he would have said: “Well, why talk about sex? Is that so important?” He would not have admitted that is was terribly important. But he was very witty, and people would have accepted his answer. Bacon, if you had asked the same question, would have said: “My God, I’m dying of it! I’m dying of too much passion!” Pierre Bonnard would have responded: “Do you want to make me cry?” And Miro would have said: “Oh it’s amusing.” If you would ask Louise Bourgeois: “Sex? What do yo mean, it does not exist.”

Concerning Francis Bacon she said:
The intensity of Francis Bacon’s works moves me deeply. I react positively. I sympathize. His suffering communicates. The definition of beauty is a kind of intimacy in the visual. I feel for Bacon even though his emotions are not mine.

The physical reality of his works is transformed and transcended. His room does not obey the laws of perspective. To look at his pictures makes me alive. I want to share it. It’s almost the expression of love.

In 1999 she wrote an interesting text concerning the English painter first published in the series Repères by Galerie Lelong in Paris.

The affinity that Louise Bourgeois associates with an artist like Robert Gober lies in their search for an artistic representation of Freudian impulses (Eros & Thanatos) as the basis of their work. And where Jenny Holzer is concerned, Louise Bourgeois shared with her the same fascination for the ‘statement’. Louise Bourgeois as much as Holzer sought to express ‘personal truth’ in concise terms. It was like a therapeutic ‘medicine’ and was for both artists of primary importance.

BIOGRAPHIES

Louise Bourgeois (°Paris, 1911). She studied at various schools, including the École du Louvre, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Académie Julian and also at Fernand Léger’s atelier. She emigrated to the US in 1938 after marrying the American art historian Robert Goldwater. Influenced by the influx of Surrealist artists to the US during and after World War II, Bourgeois composed her early sculptures by grouping together abstract and organic shapes, often carved from wood. By the 1960s she began to execute her work in rubber, bronze and stone: her childhood. Deeply symbolic her work uses her relationship with her parents and the part that sexuality played in her family life as a vocabulary with which to understand and remake that history. The anthropomorphic shapes her pieces take, male and female bodies are continually referenced and remade, are charged with both sexuality and innocence revealing the interplay between the two. Louise Bourgeois currently lives in New York.

Medardo Rosso was born in 1858 in Turin. In 1870 he moved with his family to Milan, where from 1875 to 1879 he attended the Accademia di Belle Arti de Brera. After military service he resumed his studies at the Brera in 1882 but he was expelled the following two year for protesting against traditional teaching methods. During this period, in which he produced his first sculptures, he was in contact with the Milanese literary and artistic avant-garde group “Gli Scapigliati”, which fostered in him his desire to produce naturalistic art. Rather than traditional themes, Rosso therefore preferred contemporary subjects: ordinary people and the distribution of modern urban life. Rosso died 31th March 1928 in Milan.

James Ensor was born April 13th 1860 in Ostend. After studying for only a few years at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Brussel he returned to Ostend, still a young man in his twenties, where he began to construct his rich and diverse oeuvre in semi-isolation. He painted, drew and engraved portraits, landscapes, fantastic, religious and still life scenes.
Influenced by the local carnival and fantastic literature he introduced masks and skeletons into his work from 1887. Misunderstood by both his family and art critics he identified with the figure of Christ. He also poked fun at the establishment in numerous satirical works. He died on November 19th 1949 in the city of his birth.

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