Co.Design

Louise Bourgeois’s Charming Textile Art Evokes Vintage Graphics

An exhibit at Cheim & Read in New York showed Bourgeois's late-in-life obsession: drawing with textiles.

Louise Bourgeois is most famous for her hulking spider sculptures, but she was a talented textiles artist, too. From 2002 to her death in 2010, she assembled fabric drawings out of personal garments, like discarded clothes, sheets, and towels, to create minimal tapestries that in some cases look more like Bauhaus graphic design than the freewheeling, organic imagery that defined much of her career.

On Saturday, the New York gallery Cheim & Read closed a small exhibit on Bourgeois. The show featured six late works on fabric, including Waiting Hours, an ultra-geometric abstract landscape stretched over 12 panels, and Untitled 2005, a color block arrangement that could nearly pass for a Josef Albers painting.

People who normally go gaga for Bourgeois might find these pieces a tad bland -- too rational. (Which is exactly why we love them!) But there are still plenty of hints of Bourgeois's handiwork here. Spooky spirals and webs dominate several of the drawings. And even when Bourgeois summons the modernist grid, she skews it slightly. Note the preponderance of not-quite straight lines in Untitled (fourth slide). (Though maybe that was just the shaky hand of old age? Suppose we'll never know.)

Thematically, the drawings are vintage Bourgeois, training on weighty subjects like "marriage, motherhood, sexuality, femininity, domesticity," the gallery says in prepared text. Also: introspection. (?Clothing is?an exercise of memory,? the gallery quotes Bourgeois as having said. ?It makes me explore the past?like little signposts in the search for the past.?) Of course, you don't need to know -- or even care -- about any of that stuff to appreciate the drawings on pure aesthetic grounds.

[Images courtesy of Cheim & Read]

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