Louise Bourgeois: Tate Liverpool

Tate Liverpool offers extended gratification with its first major accessible exhibition since covid restrictions eased: Focus on Louise Bourgeois. The works and gallery, bold faced and vibrant, lay unprocessed by the pandemic. Following our ascent to the second floor aka six full flights of stairs, we encounter a magnificent spider scaling the walls. French-American artist: Louise Bourgeois, exhibits are presented in full sublimity of greatness. Confessional, demon driven, reproducing themes of family dynamics, sexuality and morality. Adjacent to the works of Lucian Freud in the next gallery, but she was in no respects his meagre cognate.

The spider relates to her mother as a weaver, but also through astuteness, safeguarding and industriousness

Observations forthwith, fixating on the spider as we enter the Art rooms. Intense spotlighting ensures the bronze and black patina eight legged creature appears to surmount the gallery facade with ease. Although spiders can be beheld throughout her oeuvre, the ample cast forms did not transpire until she was in her eighties, spider I on display being actualized in the mid nineties. The spider is a customary symbol of her mother, Bourgeois had a troubled upbring just outside of Paris. The Family were French aristocracy, owning an antique tapestry mill within their grounds. Her father took the children’s governess as his mistress, a circumstance in which the entire family, inclusive of her mother, were heedful. She accursed her father  over the too soon death of her beloved mother when Bourgeois was only twenty years old. The spider relates to her mother as a weaver, but also through astuteness, safeguarding and industriousness. Cruxes of family dynamics, sexuality and morality run throughout her works.

Per contra, the image is dominated by the female form, the overblown scale of her impregnated womb and doctored bosom

Couple 2007, shows Bourgeois returning to themes of motherhood, fertility and copulation which she explores throughout her 70 year span as an artist. Struggling with fertility personally, Bourgeois’ eldest son was adopted as she had been advised she was unable to conceive. Subsequent to the adoption, she gave birth to two further sons without medical intervention. A leading figure within the Fight Censorship Group, founded in the seventies as a response to local authority threats to close a show: ‘The Sexual Politics of Feminist Art’. Throughout her work Bourgeois flaunted the image of an erect penis, Couple 2007 a prominent architype. Per contra, the image is dominated by the female form, the overblown scale of her impregnated womb and doctored bosom. Use of reds are frequent within the period produced, when she was mature in years and beyond the time of fertility. The use of gouache, wet on wet, forms natural, unrestricted marks. Bourgeois early career portrayal of genitalia paved the way for feminist artist such as Judy Chicago. Positioned in a row of similar works from her later period, the wall space of the arts complementing the success of the floor based creations. 

Gorged fabric presents us with a male, highly detailed phallic form

Single II suspends from the ceiling as we transcend the gallery space. Corpse-like, oversized, headless and only an indication of hands and feet, however unquestionably a human form. Bourgeois uses the arch as a symbol of hysteria within her works, highlighted most prominently in ‘Triptych for red room’. On initial inspection the gorged fabric presents us with a male, highly detailed phallic form. Dellaria is often associated as only a female trait, is she implying that the male can become equally frenzied? However, on near-at-eye probe we have additional female sex organs in the area where the head would be positioned. This suggests an exploration of the links between man and woman, a recurring theme throughout her practice. The arch can also be seen as a symbol of tension where muscles are stained to their limits. Is this an example of a climax through orgasm, but of an isolated occasion contrast to the couplet sculpture where the couple are in coitux?

These works allow for us to gain vast insight into Bourgeois mental conditioning. The affection for the industrious spider, her mother. Antagonism toward her father and his mistress: Sadie, the governess. The period of depression after the death of her mother which turned her away from maths and science and towards art. The seventy year span as an artist, many exhibits created during the twilight years. Undeniably, one of the most far-reaching artists of the twentieth and early twenty-first century.

Exhibition continues until the 16th September, booking essential due to restrictions.


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