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    Complete archive, 1999-present


    Louise Bourgeois: Ode  L'Oubli
    Courtesy Peter Blum Gallery

    The Material Sublime

    "Ode L'Oubli" (Ode to the Forgotten) celebrates a new edition of twenty-five books in which Louise Bourgeois remembers a long past in abstract elements.


    Louise Bourgeois's thirty-six small but graphically jazzy framed works line the walls of Peter Blum Gallery in the exhibition "Ode L'Oubli." Made of fabrics collaged onto linen, they're actually pages from a cloth book of the same name dated 2004. A display case holds two proofs of the assembled book, revealing that the spine stacks up to some three inches. The pages can be unbuttoned from the buttonhole binding for individual display, and the linen fabric support for the collages lacks boards or rigid structure of any kind. In theory, the whole thing could be tossed in the wash. Its informality belies the sophistication of its contents and contributes a sly sense of play.

    Exhibition: Ode L'Oubli.
    Works by: Louise Bourgeois.
    September 30 - November 13, 2004

    Gallery: Peter Blum Gallery (SoHo)
    99 Wooster St.
    New York NY
    Phone: (212) 343-0441

    This will sound familiar to fans of the French-born, New York based, international art star and nonagenarian. Bourgeois has devoted the latter part of her long career to the pursuit of the past — her own past. Much of her prodigious output, whether sculpture in bronze, marble, stuffed fabric, found object assemblage, or reams of drawings and prints, attests to a deeply psychological approach to creativity full of wit and anger. She fairly pioneered the idea that one can contend with the powerful pull of a familial past by being an artist. Her work thus entails great emotional depth and complexity while never losing sight of pleasure or humor, and "Ode L'Oubli" is no exception.

    Yet this project seems especially personal, intimate and direct, perhaps because it recycles odds and ends of material and clothing found around the artist's own household. From precious monogrammed napkins to huckaback-weave dish towels, colorful bits of silk, twill curtain liner fabric, and old nylons, a cacophony of remnants were reworked into graphic statements. They are so spare and elegant that the embroidery stitches holding them in place look highly subversive, flaunting kitsch and tenderness at the gods of modernist abstraction. A few pages were printed with lithography ink. One, for example, takes the form of dizzying blue and white squares within squares. Others convey messages — the artist's own apercus — in bright red letters. That this encyclopedia of color, form, texture, pattern, tropes and tricks of the picture plane should be drawn from great-grandmother's rag bag is all the more interesting; it implies that the domestic environment contains the seeds of abstraction, or at least it did until around mid-century. Into this visual cocktail Bourgeois occasionally inserts her own characteristic motifs, such as eye / egg / pod shapes, arrows or pyramids in colors she especially favors, rose pink and baby blue.

    Louise Bourgeois: Ode  L'Oubli  
    Courtesy Peter Blum Gallery  
    The beauty of "Ode L'Oubli," aside from its refreshing weirdness, is how poetically, if indirectly, it conjures the artist's affection for old French tapestries. For Bourgeois grew up in the midst of her parents'industrious business in the acquisition and repair of them. Meanwhile, the pages with text in red capitals deserve special emphasis. There are only two. The phrases "I had a flashback of something that never existed" and "The return of the repressed" are like flashes of insight amidst this labor-intensive paean to sewing and modernism — lest we forget, in contemplation of "Ode L'Oubli"'s exposition of the material sublime, whose household all this work of the needle, eye and mind came from.

      Louise Bourgeois: Ode  L'Oubli
       Courtesy Peter Blum Gallery
    OCTOBER 15, 2004

    Reader comments on Louise Bourgeois: Ode L'Oubli:

  • [no subject]   from Aleta Regan, Nov 24, 2004
  • Ode L'Oubil   from ahr, Nov 24, 2004
  • louise bourgeois   from miriam chaikin, May 10, 2005
  • Ode a L'Oubli   from Elizabeth Bradford, Jul 5, 2008

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