New York Art@Site Louise Joséphine Bourgeois Spider

Louise Joséphine Bourgeois



Rockefeller Center (contemporary)
A spider and fear
A spider is a very useful animal: it eats the annoying flies in your room, makes a wonderful web, it makes no noise. It’s also a logical topic for an artwork: it’s paws are long but also elegant. An average model would do a murder for it.
Spider by Louise Josephine Bourgeois seems to tell a completely different story. The work is perhaps five times larger than us and thus can overwhelm us. The dented paws makes us think about aging and can fear us. And yes, I think: this is where this artwork is about.
Not because of an animal. An average citizen won’t meet a dangerous spider.
No, fear of a human being.
What people can say and do to each other, can be very fearing and painful.
By Theo,

Een spin en angst
Een spin is een uitermate nuttig dier: het eet de irritante vliegen op in je kamer, maakt een prachtig web, het maakt geen lawaai. Ook een logisch onderwerp voor een kunstwerk: de poten zijn lang en toch elegant. Een gemiddeld model zou er een moord voor doen.
Spider van Louise Josephine Bourgeois lijkt een geheel ander verhaal te vertellen. Het werk is misschien wel vijf keer groter dan onszelf en daarmee kan het ons overweldigen. De gedeukte benen doen ons denken aan ouderdom en kan ons angstig maken. En jah hier gaat dit kunstwerk over volgens mij.
Niet voor een dier. Een gemiddelde burger ontmoet geen gevaarlijke spin.
Nee, angst voor een mens.
Wat mensen elkaar kunnen zeggen en aandoen, kan angstig maken en kan heel pijnlijk zijn.
By Theo,

Compared with other artworks
Spider by Louise Josephine Bourgeois derives much of its impact by the format. This format, combined with the effective use of the theme "fear" makes it a masterpiece.

This miracle of the artwork David by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (Venice, picture 1, more information) retains its beauty, power and magic in every format it would have been implemented.

American cities such as Los Angeles, can cope well with large format artworks. Memory Reflection by Lita Albuquergue (Los Angeles, picture 2, more information) first appears to be a little star, than becomes a thin line that gradually turns into a fountain and a gold sphere that seems to rise to the sky.

Marwari Horse at Water by Nic Fiddian-Green (London, picture 3, more information) is a masterpiece that is realistic yet is poetic and aesthetic. It remains subtle even with it's large size. With this piece, the lawn is transformed into a poetic space. It will be wonderful to be together in the vicinity of this beauty.

This artwork Torri di Luciana by Mauro Staccioli (Florence, picture 4, more information) seems to be able to carry the entire area and be able to place this on the earth. In a smaller size, the effect would be partially lost.
By Theo,
Not to be confused with Louise Bourgeois' similar sculptures: Spider or Crouching Spider
Maman (1999) is a bronze, stainless steel, and marble sculpture by the artist Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture, which depicts a spider, is among the world's largest, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide (927 x 891 x 1024 cm). It includes a sac containing 32 marble eggs and its abdomen and thorax are made of ribbed bronze.
The title is the familiar French word for Mother (akin to Mummy). The sculpture was created in 1999 by Bourgeois as a part of her inaugural commission of The Unilever Series (2000), in the Turbine Hall at London's Tate Modern. This original was created in steel, with an edition of six subsequent castings in bronze.
The sculpture picks up the theme of the arachnid that Bourgeois had first contemplated in a small ink and charcoal drawing in 1947, continuing with her 1996 sculpture Spider. It alludes to the strength of Bourgeois' mother, with metaphors of spinning, weaving, nurture and protection. Her mother Josephine was a woman who repaired tapestries in her father's textile restoration workshop in Paris. When Bourgeois was twenty-one, she lost her mother to an unknown illness. A few days after her mother's passing, in front of her father (who did not seem to take his daughter's despair seriously), Louise threw herself into the Bièvre River; he swam to her rescue.
"The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother." (Louise Bourgeois)
Supported on eight slender, sinewy legs, the body of the spider is suspended above the ground, allowing the viewer to walk freely underneath it. Each ribbed leg is made of two pieces of steel and ends in a sharp-tipped point. Weighty with the threat of peril, it’s as if the spider will run away at any moment and take its carefully balanced wire-meshed sac of seventeen white and grey marble eggs along with it. At once anxiety inducing and yet agile, nurturing and strong, the title Maman translates as ‘Mummy’ in French and amplifies the dynamic contradictions at the heart of the sculpture.
In a text entitled Ode à ma mere or ‘Ode to My Mother’ published in 1995, Bourgeois first introduces the spider as a maternal figure – the artist’s mother:
The friend (the spider – why the spider?) because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider. She could also defend herself, and me, by refusing to answer ‘stupid’, inquisitive, embarrassing, personal questions.
Spiders are usually recognised to evoke of fear, terror and disgust and Bourgeois saw making art as a way to fight fear. As Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day take place this week, perhaps we can look to Maman as a mammoth, matt-black beacon of the essential strength, beauty, and restorative power pervaded by your best friend, mother and the women who surround you.
Louise Joséphine Bourgeois (French; 25 December 1911 – 31 May 2010), was a renowned French-American artist and sculptor, one of the most important artists in modern and contemporary art, and known for her spider structures which resulted in her being nicknamed the Spiderwoman. Her largest spider sculpture titled Maman has loomed over numerous locations around the world, standing at over 30 ft (9.27m).
She is recognized today as the founder of confessional art.
In the late 1940s, after moving to New York City with her American husband, Robert Goldwater, she turned to sculpture. Though her works are abstract, they are suggestive of the human figure and express themes of betrayal, anxiety, and loneliness. Her work was wholly autobiographical, inspired by her childhood trauma of discovering that her English governess was also her father’s mistress.
In 2011 one of her works titled Spider, sold for $10.7 million, a new record price for the artist at auction,[19] and the highest price paid for a work by a woman.
The title Maman translates as ‘Mummy’, the appellation a child uses for its mother. Like the title Fillette (meaning ‘little girl’) that Bourgeois gave to a large plaster and latex penis that hangs from a wire (1968, reproduced in Morris p.147), the title Maman enhances dynamic contradictions at the heart of the sculpture. Words accompanying a suite of nine etchings published in 1995 by Editions du Solstice, Paris, entitled Ode à ma mere or ‘Ode to My Mother’, first introduce the spider as a maternal figure – the artist’s mother:
The friend (the spider – why the spider?) because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider. She could also defend herself, and me, by refusing to answer ‘stupid’, inquisitive, embarrassing, personal questions.
I shall never tire of representing her.
I want to: eat, sleep, argue, hurt, destroy …
Why do you?
My reasons belong exclusively to me.
The treatment of Fear.

(Quoted in Louise Bourgeois, p.62.)
In this text Bourgeois has emphasised positive attributes a spider may have and she has also connected her own artistic processes with those of a spider: ‘What is a drawing? it is a secretion, like a thread in a spider’s web … It is a knitting, a spiral, a spider web and other significant organisations of space.’ (Quoted in Louise Bourgeois, p.50.) However, spiders are more usually thought of as a source of fear and disgust, the most extreme association perhaps the black widow spider who eats her mate. Maman’s towering scale and sharply pointed feet suggest a sinister and menacing aspect concurrent with a sense of fragility that is evoked through the precariousness of balancing and in the associations that the artist has with the form of the spiral in its upper body. The spiral recurs in Bourgeois’s work in two and three dimensions, including an Untitled print from 1989–91 (P77679) and the hanging sculpture Spiral Woman 1984 (reproduced in Morris, p.281). The artist has described the spiral as ‘an attempt at controlling the chaos’ and has commented that ‘Spirals – which way to turn – represent the fragility in an open space. Fear makes the world go round.’ (Quoted in Marie-Laure Bernadac and Hans-Ulrich Obrist (eds), Louise Bourgeois: Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father, London 1998, pp.222 and 223.)
Maman is a monumental steel spider, so large that it can only be installed out of doors, or inside a building of industrial scale. Supported on eight slender, knobbly legs, its body is suspended high above the ground, allowing the viewer to walk around and underneath it. Each ribbed leg ending in a sharp-tipped point is made of two pieces of steel, and attached to a collar above which an irregularly ribbed spiralling body rises, balanced by a similar sized egg sac below. The meshed sac contains seventeen white and grey marble eggs that hang above the viewer’s head, gleaming in the darkness of their under-body cavity. Maman was made for the opening of Tate Modern in May 2000 as part of Bourgeois’s commission for the Turbine Hall, the grand central space of the museum. The sculpture was installed on the bridge, overlooking three tall steel towers entitled I Do, I Undo and I Redo, referring to processes of emotional development in relation to motherhood, a central theme in the artist’s oeuvre. An edition of six bronze casts was created subsequent to Tate’s original steel version; their marble eggs have pinker tones than those of T12625.
Maman is the largest of a series of steel spider sculptures that Bourgeois created in the second half of the 1990s, picking up a motif that she first depicted in a small ink and charcoal drawing in 1947. Spider (reproduced Morris p.279) shows a body and round head supported on eight stiff stick-like legs with rudimentary feet and eyes that are curiously multiple and joined. In 1994 she drew a similar figure in red ink, gouache and crayon (reproduced Louise Bourgeois: Maman, p.79); this spider stands upright on four legs that stem from its lower body, two of which are particularly emphasised, suggesting a human figure. In the same year, Bourgeois created her first Spider sculpture using geometric and found forms (Spider 1994, reproduced Louise Bourgeois: Maman, p.79) – a glass jar with a rounded base containing blue liquid hanging below a steel globe, both of which are supported by legs made from straight sections of steel tube bent at angles to hold the body a metre above the ground. This was followed by a series of more organically shaped steel and bronze standing and wall-mounted arachnids (Spider 1994, Spider 1995, Spider III 1995, Spider IV 1996, Spider 1997 and Spider V 1999, reproduced Louise Bourgeois, pp.60–1, 58–9, 62–3, 50, 64–5 and 52–3 respectively).
The regular wire mesh that allows the viewer to see into Maman’s abdominal egg sac is supported by narrow irregular ribs that echo the ribbed spiral of her upper body. Small nippled bulges occur singly and in clusters in the mesh, which is also interrupted by holes that are circular, triangular and diamond in form. These clustered breast-like bulges appear in the artist’s work from the late 1960s onwards, in such sculptures as Avenza 1968–9 (T07781), and most notably arising in latex in a small installation entitled The Destruction of the Father 1974 (reproduced in Morris, p.103). Maman’s wire-meshed egg sac has as its precedent an entire fenced Cell enclosing the body of a Spider created in 1997 (reproduced in Louise Bourgeois: Maman, p.109). Under the spider’s belly full of eggs made of glass wrapped in nylon tights, the Cell contains fragments of antique tapestries, hollowed bones and old Shalimar perfume bottles as well as a pendulous rubber form stuck with pins, brooches and old medals, all attached to the meshed walls, evoking a web full of trapped prey. The objects carry resonances from the artist’s history – as a child she assisted her mother in the restoration of antique tapestries (the family business), the perfume – first launched in 1925 – is her favourite and a stopped pocket watch hanging from the Cell wall once belonged to her grandfather. Bourgeois began creating Cells in the late 1980s – small enclosed spaces into which the viewer may enter in some instances, but may also be excluded from, forced to peer between architectural features or through holes in glass. They usually contain a mixture of made and found objects, including things that have particular historical significance for the artist; pieces of furniture are often combined with sculptural elements, as in Cell (Eyes and Mirrors) 1989–93 (T06899). With its Cell-cum egg sac into which the viewer may enter, the 1997 Spider articulates a claustrophobic relationship to architectural space very different to that which T12625 embodies. Maman’s curving ribbed legs evoke gothic columns that rise to lofty heights above the congregation of an open cathedral, while its marble eggs recall the contents of Cell (Three White Marble Spheres) 1993 (reproduced in Louise Bourgeois: Maman, p.51), in which a small white marble sphere nestles between two much larger ones.
For Bourgeois making art is a way of fighting specific fears (Bernadac and Obrist, p.267), one of which is the ‘trauma of abandonment’ that she suffered not only through her untimely birth on Christmas Day (Bernadac and Obrist, p.246) but also on her mother’s death in 1932, when Louise was only twenty-one (Bernadac and Obrist, p.207). Having experienced motherhood herself, she has dealt with the ambivalent feelings a mother may have for her children, as contradictory as those a child may feel for his or her mother. Just as the 1971 sculpture Le Trani Episode represents ‘a double attitude to be like a mother, and to be liked by a mother’ (Bourgeois quoted in Morris, p.288; sculpture reproduced p.289), Maman may be read as referring to more than one possible maternal figure: the artist, her mother, a mythological or archetypal mother and a symbol of motherhood. In a diary entry in March 1975, Bourgeois wrote: ‘You need a mother. I understand but I refuse to be your mother because I need a mother myself.’ (Quoted in Bernadac and Obrist, p.72.) Encountering Maman always from the perspective of the child looking up from below, the viewer may experience the sculpture as an expression of anxiety about a mother who is universal – powerful and terrifying, beautiful and, without eyes to look or a head to think, curiously indifferent.