There are artists who perceive a rift in the world, a great crack running through the center of everything, and then there are those who can only skim over the surface just like gossamer slips over skin. Louise Bourgeois, who died in 2010, was an artist deeply familiar with the chasm that could rend the world without warning and for any reason, and she drew from a childhood bruised with trauma to create spectacularly twisted and tender works of art that continue to inspire awe and deep analysis. On Wednesday, Hauser & Wirth gallery will kick off its placeless inaugural online exhibition, a necessity due to the coronavirus, with a showcase of Bourgeois’s drawings titled “Louise Bourgeois. Drawings 1947 – 2007.”
In addition to decades-worth of the artist’s works, the gallery will also present a series of original interactive experiences, features and videos corresponding to the exhibition so that viewers can find new ways to connect to Bourgeois’s body of work.
Bourgeois is quite well known for her gnarled, mammoth sculptures of spiders, which she said were partially representations of her mother; a protective figure who bore the brunt of her husband’s emotional outbursts. In contrast, the artist’s drawings are perhaps gentler and more abstracted, but they still project a hint of menace that fits well within the foreboding thematics of Bourgeois’s aesthetic as a whole.
“It seems particularly fitting at this moment to present an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois drawings,” Marc Payot, president of Hauser & Wirth, told Observer. “For Louise, the act of drawing was indivisible from living. She drew every single day, not merely as an important part of her artistic practice but as an essential tool for survival, a means to work through–often quickly and nimbly like the spider she so often depicted–her personal traumas, deep psychological conflicts, and dreams. Drawing served as an adaptive tool, and this is very inspiring to us at a moment when we’re all being challenged to adapt to changed realities and to redefine everyday life and our connections to others.”
Through her work, Bourgeois also presents new ways of working through a fear that perhaps cannot be articulated in words; a very necessary artistic contribution in times as uncertain as these. “At Hauser & Wirth, we’re responding to the demands of this difficult time by exploring new tools and using existing ones differently and more creatively,” Payot added. “We hope this exhibition, by being online and available to everyone, everywhere around the world, can be equally inspiring as they adjust to a challenging moment.”
“When I draw it means that something bothers me, but I don’t know what it is,” Bourgeois herself once explained. “So it is the treatment of anxiety.” Hopefully, then, observing these works can be just as healing as creating them.