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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Louise Bourgeois
1911 - 2010
MOTHER AND CHILD
stitched fabric in aluminium and glass vitrine
30.5 by 61 by 35.6cm.; 12 by 24 by 14in.
vitrine: 179 by 82 by 82cm.; 70 1/2 by 32 1/4 by 32 1/4 in.
Executed in 2001.
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Provenance

Soledad Lorenzo Gallery, Madrid

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2002

Exhibited

Madrid, Soledad Lorenzo Gallery, Louise Bourgeois, 2002

Malaga, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Málaga; and Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Stitches in Time, 2004-05

Malaga, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Málaga, on loan to the permanent collection until 2015

Catalogue Note

In Louise Bourgeois’ Mother and Child of 2001, an infant clings tightly to a truncated female torso. Patched together from toweling, a fabric reminiscent of childhood, warmth and vulnerability, and protected or imprisoned in a steel and glass vitrine, this sculpture speaks painfully of nascent Freudian loss and the trauma of abandonment. It telescopes the theme of motherhood, which since the very beginning of Bourgeois’ mature practice has occupied an abiding and powerful force. From the earliest Personages’ in which swollen pendulous forms evoke pregnancy, through to the monstrous protectiveness of her iconic Spiders, named Maman or ‘Mummy’, Bourgeois presents maternal emotion from the point of view of both parent and child. Delivering a distinctly modern take on the traditional art historical trope of the Virgin and Child, Bourgeois’ Mother and Child transforms an expression of unconditional love into one of tender ambivalence. Four fabric sculptures of this type were executed between 2001 and 2002 and these belong to a corpus of crudely stitched and stuffed fabric sculptures, often suspended in mid-air or encased in vitrines. Mother and Child was initiated during the artist’s ninetieth year; indeed it is these very last years that gave rise to Bourgeois’ most emotively commanding pieces.

Entrenched in the mythology surrounding her upbringing, Bourgeois retrospectively replays, reprises and replicates her unabated memory of the psychological distress that devastated her youth. Indeed, that Bourgeois lost her mother at the age of 21 is unmistakably at play in the present work. Born into an affluent family in the provincial outskirts of Paris, she was daughter to Josephine and Louis Bourgeois, proprietors of the restoration and tapestry repair business that first fostered the young artist’s nascent creativity. Nonetheless, family life was fractured and unsettled. Though she loved her father, he was often cruel, while his infidelity with Louise’s live-in English tutor Sadie (of which her mother was fully aware) left the artist with an enduring sense of betrayal and abandonment. Linked to the family craft of tapestry and undoubtedly reliving the loss of her mother, Mother and Child is a bittersweet expression of the artist’s own child-like fragility.

These late works mark a return of the repressed and recall the materials, spaces and forms inextricably bound to her nascent childhood experiences. As outlined by the artist: “My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama. All my work of the last fifty years, all my subjects, have found their inspiration in my childhood” (Louise Bourgeois, Louise Bourgeois: Album, New York 1994, n.p.). Fragility, fear, seduction, copulation, abandonment, jealously and violence announce the inchoate psychological world externalised and exorcised by Louise Bourgeois. Nonetheless, executed during the very last decade of her life, Mother and Child bespeaks a calmness tied to the catharsis of repetition. Vulnerable and yet protected within a glass prison, these precisely sewn and delicately moulded figures radiate a sense of equilibrium and tranquility.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London