– ”The magic power of the needle…”-
The Gropius Bau presents The Woven Child, the first major retrospective of Louise Bourgeois to focus exclusively on the works that she made with fabrics and textiles during the final chapter of her storied career. This is the largest exhibition of the artist’s work in Berlin, with many works that have never been shown before in Germany.
Comprising one of the greatest late career chapters in the history of art, Bourgeois forged during this period a body of work in which many of her lifelong concerns were re-articulated in newly provocative and profoundly enlivening ways, including her exploration of identity, sexuality, family relationships, reparation and memory. In surveying this late body of work, The Woven Child explores what the artist, in her own words, called “the magic power of the needle … to repair the damage” and to offer “a claim to forgiveness”.
– ”The spider is a repairer” –
Featuring 89 works, The Woven Child surveys the complete range of fabric artworks that Bourgeois produced during her last two decades. The exhibition includes major installations, notably several of Bourgeois’s “Poles” and monumental “Cells”, in which hanging configurations of old dresses, slips and other garments directly reference her personal history.
The imposing installation Spider (1997), and the related piece, Lady in Waiting (2003), incorporate fragments of antique tapestry. Bourgeois understood the spider as both protector and predator, and associated it with her mother, a weaver and tapestry restorer. Its ability to weave a web from its own body was a metaphor that Bourgeois also used to describe her artistic process and is a particularly poignant image within this survey of her fabric work.
“I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it.”Louise Bourgeois
– ”Soft” sculpture –
A significant selection of the artist’s fabric heads reveals the wide range of expressions that she elaborated in these uncanny and impactful portraits.
Also featured is a selection of Bourgeois’s “progressions”: columns of stacked textile blocks or lozenges, organised in ascending and descending sequences. With these works, Bourgeois returned to the vertical sculptural forms that dominated her early work in the 1940s and 1950s, only now rendered in soft materials.
Bourgeois regularly revisited and revised motifs from earlier works throughout her career, a practice that reached a climax with a group of four major late works, made during the last five years of her life, in which combinations of different types of sculptures are displayed together in large vitrines. Collectively, they constitute a kind of summary statement of her late fabric art.
– The curatorial threads –
The Woven Child is curated by Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery and Julienne Lorz, former Chief Curator of the Gropius Bau.
“Over the course of her seven-decade-long career, Bourgeois continuously wove elements of her own biography – and her physical and psychological experiences – into her artworks. These threads are perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the late fabric works, which draw on and explore her relationship with her mother, her experience of vulnerability, of ageing, and her attitude to and intimacy with a wide range of materials, processes, tools and techniques. The result is a subtle and complex web that continues to surprise us to this day.” — Julienne Lorz, Co-curator of The Woven Child
In addition to sculpture, the exhibition will highlight a wide selection of Bourgeois’s vibrant fabric drawings, books, prints and collages.
– The institutional questions of ”repair” –
The Woven Child fits into the Gropius Bau’s current programming focused on questions of repair, as well as the history of the building, an applied arts and crafts school that was seriously damaged in World War II. Under the leadership of Stephanie Rosenthal, the architecture’s debris and damaged elements were programmaticaly highlighted, as a way of understanding and representing history and the building’s atrium was opened to establish a place for gathering.
“For Louise Bourgeois, textiles were a way of enacting processes of mending and repair – psychologically, socially and materially. As well as our attention to the practice of crafts, such as stitching and weaving, repair is a core thematic bedrock of our programming. The Gropius Bau is excited to show The Woven Child, which elicits the ways in which questions of repair – so central to the Gropius Bau’s history, architecture and exhibitions – can be generative creatively.
Louise Bourgeois remains a role model and source of inspiration for artists today. Her late works remain highly relevant for many present-day concerns, among them the lasting legacy of individual trauma and the role that art can have as a form of repair, regeneration and as a form of generative re-purposing. Bourgeois’s decision to create artworks from her clothes and household textiles was a means of transforming as well as preserving the past.
She viewed the actions involved in fabricating these works – cutting, ripping, sewing, joining – in psychological and metaphorical terms, relating them to notions of reparation and to the trauma of separation or abandonment. In an era in which questions of repair and reparation are increasingly voiced, Bourgeois’s works today seem startlingly original and daring, perhaps more than when she made them” —Stephanie Rosenthal, Director of the Gropius Bau