Louise Bourgeois Prints: Autobiographical Series and Set of 11 Drypoints

Past exhibition
Hayward Gallery Touring

PLEASE HANG IN THERE, 1999 by LOUISE BOURGEOIS PRINTS: Autobiographical Series and 11 Drypoints A Hayward Touring exhibition 2016

Two series of works by Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010) capture the artist’s deepest memories

Best known for her powerful emotionally charged sculptures, steel cage installations and fabric figures, her prolific output grew increasingly expressive throughout her career. 

This French-American artist’s work, whether in sculpture, drawing or printmaking, always maintained  strongly autobiographical themes, centering on her own obsessions and vulnerabilities  - loneliness, insecurity, anger, sadness, desire. After many years focusing primarily on sculpture, Bourgeois returned to printmaking during the latter years of her life – from the 1980s until her death in 2010. The two series in this exhibition were made whilst she was in her eighties. 

Autobiographical Series (1994) captures some of her deepest thoughts and memories, whilst the set of 11 drypoints (all from 1999) brings these anxieties into more abstract territory. Featuring familiar motifs, from the pregnant woman to the cat, the prints in these two series are clearly inspired by her obsessions with the human condition. Womb-like figures, stairs and ladders, feet, long hair, clocks, scissors, bathtubs and a pregnant mosquito all contain charged references to memory, with such titles as ‘Empty Nest’, ‘Paternity’, ‘Please Hang in There’ and ‘Mother and Child’. The print entitled ‘Fear’, as part of 11 drypoints, for example, shows a person crouched inside a triangle that is slowly squeezing her into a tight space.  The memory of her mother sewing – the Bourgeois family ran a successful tapestry company – is evoked in ‘Sewing’, in the Autobiographical Series.

Bourgeois enjoyed the sculptural, tactile and physical process of printmaking. This medium gave her the ability to make many changes over the course of an edition, experimenting with the depth of transparency with certain elements of her drawings, which typically resulted in a number of different states until she was satisfied. The possibilities of retaining parts of her original drawings whilst amending others was something that she felt was not available to her in painting or sculpture. She said ‘the whole history of the creative process is there’.  

Total number of prints: 25

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