One of the twentieth century's most influential sculptors, Louise Bourgeois, died on Monday aged 98. Bourgeois' work was largely unknown until the artist was in her sixties and seventies, despite the fact that over the course of her life she produced some of the most challenging and confronting sculpture of the twentieth century.
Bourgeois' sculpture is large scale, psychologically loaded, and frequently unsettling. The now eponymous giant cast iron spider is a testament ot all these qualities. The work's title, Maman (French for mother) shakes things up even further. Who would call a spider Mum? What kind of feelings does Louise Bourgeois expect us to feel for this behemoth arachnid? Yet the knowledge of its title completely changes our experience of the sculpture. Suddenly Maman is much more than just a giant spider: the work is a meditation on relationships, protection and vulnerability. Plus, by having people walk underneath the statue, Bourgeois says as much about the pregnant relationship between viewer and art object as Donald Judd did back in the sixties.
Other works reference sexual ambiguity, human frailty, and in the case of Cell (Glass spheres and hands), which can be found at Melbourne's NGV, the complexities od childhood. I've only briefly studied Bourgeois, so am certainly not the most authoratative source. If you do want to read a little more about her, there is an excellent write up at the art daily with Lydia, which I stumbled upon while googling Louise Bourgeois, and will now be keeping an eye on. There is also an intellgent and thoughtful article at the New York Times.