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 De 11 Lijnen. 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.
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 (°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 (°April 13th 1860 in Ostend, Belgium). 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.
Pierre Bonnard (°1867 in Fontenay-les-Roses, near Paris). Whilst studying law in 1887 he enrolled himself at the Académie Julian and thenin 1888 at the École des Beaux-Arts where he met Ker-Xavier Roussel and Edouard Vuillard who would later become friends. Along with his friends Paul Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Vuillard, he became a founding member of the Nabis, a group of artists who were chiefly interested in the symbolic and spiritual. Later he would be most well known for his colorful landscapes, homely interiors and his nudes for which his wife Marthe was his model. Bonnard died January 23rd 1947 at Le Cannot on the Côte d’Azur.
Joan Miro (°1893 in Montroig, near Barcelona). He initially pursued business studies but in 1912 he began to study art in Barcelona. He traveled to Paris in 1920 where he enrolled himself at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Around 1925 he met André Breton and became friends with many Surrealist artists. His style envolved from realistic towards the more stylized and he subsequently developed a colorful, biomorphic and abstract pictorial language. Miro died December 25th 1983 in Palma de Mallorca.
Chaïm Soutine (°1893 in Minsk). He was the tenth child of Jewish parents. He studied at the Academy of Arts in Vilnius but decided to move to Paris in 1913. There he was introduced to a circle of artists based in Montparnasse and became friends with Chagall, Lipchitz and Modigliani. Investing himself in painting he went on to produce landscapes, still life and portraits, constantly obsessed by form and color, often dejected and unsatisfied, he destroyed many paintings during fits of despair.His expressionist technique is characterized by applying thick layers of paint one on top of the other in seemingly chaotic contours. Soutine died following a failed stomach operation on August 9th 1943 in Paris.
Francis Bacon (°1909 in Dublin, the son of English parents). After short stays in Berlin and Paris he settled in London and began work as an interior designer. Bacon began to paint as an autodidact. He met Lucia Freud who would remain a life long friend. Obsessed by the human figure he utilized his expressionistic style to give form to mankind’s pain and loneliness. He is particularly known for his monumental triptychs and the series of paintings he produced inspired by Velasquez’ portrait of Pope Innocent X. Francis Bacon died in Madrid on April 28th 1992.
Franz Kline (°1910 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania). He studied at the School of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Boston and went on to the National Academy of Design in New York. Until 1950 his work was mainly figurative and on a small scale. Subsequently he produced large, black and white works in an Abstract Expressionist style. The strength of his work lies in the violent tension created by the division of the solid weight of black lines and the wide white open space. He died May 13th 1962 in New York.
Richard Serra (°1939 in San Francisco). He initially studied at the University of California in Berkeley and Santa Barbara. He subsequently studied literature at Yale from 1961 until 1964. He also studied painting and worked together with Josef Albers on his book The Interaction of Colors. In the early sixties he met Philip Guston, Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt and Frank Stella. His early sculptures are characterized by his use of unconventional materials such as lead, rubber, wood and fiberglass. Afterwards he worked mostly on large scale structures made of steel plates. He lives and works in New York and Nova Scotia (USA).
Robert Mapplethorpe (°1946 in New York). He studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn (N.Y.). In his early compositions he made use of photographs from magazines and newspapers. In the mid 1970s he considers photography as an independent medium. He concentrated mainly on portraits of friends and homo-eroticism. Afterwards he would also photograph flowers, Greco-Roman sculpture and celebrities from the film and music industry. Mapplethorpe died as a result of AIDS on March 9th 1989 in Boston.
Jenny Holzer (°1954 in Gallipolis, Ohio). She studied painting and printing at the University of Ohio (Athens) and then at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. She later introduced the medium of language into her work. In 1977 she created her first “all-text work”, entitled Truism. She makes use of the latest technology and electronics to display her statements. She lives and works in New York.
Robert Gober (°1954 in Wallingford, Connecticut). He attended Middleburg College in Vermont before moving to Manhattan in 1976. Since mid-1980 his work has rarely strayed from the portrayal of easily recognizable objects such as drains, doors, children’s furniture and the human body. His works are sometimes replicas of banal objects or limbs in wich the notion of ‘model’ is put into question. Questions of political, religious or social nature are also addressed by his sculptures and drawings. He lives and works in New York.