Published: June 5, 2015
Louise Bourgeois, “Maman,” 1999, bronze, stainless steel, and marble; 30 feet 5 inches by 29 feet, 3 inches by 33 feet and 7 inches. Installation view at Tate Modern, London, 2007. Photo by Marcus Leith © The Easton Foundation/licensed by VAGA.
BENTONVILLE, ARK. — The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has acquired two sculptures and two paintings by artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010): “Maman,” a 1999 bronze, stainless steel, and marble piece famous among her spider-themed works; “Quarantania,” a 1947–1953 painted bronze and stainless steel piece; “Connecticutiana,” a 1944–1945 oil on wood, and an untitled oil on canvas from 1947.
“Louise Bourgeois contributed significantly to shaping American narrative with work that spanned most of the Twentieth Century and helped inform the growing feminist art movement. We’re eager to share her acclaimed sculptures as well as her rare paintings which offer visitors a chance to explore her work in two and three-dimensions,” said Crystal Bridges Executive Director Rod Bigelow.
Louise Bourgeois, “Quarantania,” 1947–1953, cast 1990, bronze, painted white with blue and black, and stainless steel, 80½ by 27 by 27 inches. Images courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. © The Easton Foundation/licensed by VAGA.
“Quarantania” recently debuted in the museum’s 1940s to Now Art Gallery, in a focused area featuring artists’ depiction of the human form. Although its life-size figures are simplified and abstracted, they represent deeply personal and complex facets of Bourgeois’s own life and relationships. The figures’ tight grouping evokes the feeling of close emotional relationships. Shaped like shuttles used in weaving, they are linked to the artist’s childhood and the tools used by her parents, who restored antique tapestries as a profession.
“Quarantania” likely represents the artist’s family at the time, with herself in the center carrying packages, surrounded by her husband and three sons. The hanging packages allude to the artist’s role as caretaker for her family and the burden of childcare. The French title of the work, meaning 40, likely refers to Bourgeois’s age, a subject she explored throughout her career: she turned 40 in 1951.
Two landmark works from the 1940s, “Connecticutiana,” and and an untitled oil, are also part of this acquisition. While her paintings have been widely acclaimed and exhibited in the United States and Europe, this marks the first acquisition of Bourgeois paintings by a museum in the United States. These paintings will debut in the 1940s to Now Art Gallery this summer.
“Bourgeois immigrated to the United States from Europe, bringing with her an important new artistic vocabulary and a powerfully feminine perspective,” said Crystal Bridges Curator Chad Alligood. “Her biomorphic forms, seen in both her sculptures and paintings, reflect the milieu of European Surrealists who came to America during and after World War II. Her works were emotionally-charged and often rooted in deeply personal themes that nevertheless resonate with a universal human experience. Because of her remarkably diverse body of work, Bourgeois’s approach resonates with a cross-section of American artists represented in our permanent collection, including Ruth Asawa, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock.”
The monumental sculpture “Maman,” from the French word: mama, measures more than 30 feet in both length and height, and will be installed on the museum’s grounds later this year.
The earliest examples of the spider image appeared in Bourgeois’s work in the late 1940s as drawings. The first spider sculpture cast in bronze was made in 1990. Bourgeois said of the spider works, “The Spider is an Ode to my mother. She was my best friend.”
“Crystal Bridges is honored to fulfill the late artist’s wish to have ‘Maman’ exhibited in an American art museum,” said Bigelow. “The sculpture adds to our collection with sophisticated engineering and stainless steel armature, which will engage viewers and challenge our ideas of architecture and sculpture.”
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is at 600 Museum Way. For information, www.crystalbridges.org or 479-418-5700.
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