Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Spiders and Spirals

Yesterday morning, I went to see the Louise Bourgeois retrospective at the Guggenheim. Bourgeois has never been any sort of favorite of mine, but the large spider statues (particularly the one Andrew and I ran into in the Tuilleries in Paris this March) have always intrigued me. The show has gotten great reviews, and the shows of late at the Guggenheim have been particularly impressive, so I was definitely looking forward to learning more and seeing the exhibit.

Overall, it did not disappoint. What stood out to me the most was not necessarily the art itself, but the actual exhibition: the art looked stunning in the Guggenheim building. The soft, cool curves of the building really played well with her understated, undulating sculptures. The show was presented chronologically, so as you climb the spiral, you work your way from her paintings of the 1940's (who knew she ever painted?) to her sculptures of today at the top. It was a wonderful walk up.
I decided against doing the audio tour, even though I was on my own, because I wanted to try to understand the development of her work on my own, simply through the work itself and wall text. The beauty of the chronological design was that I succeeded. Well, I certainly don't feel like I'm an expert, but I felt like I got it. I enjoyed seeing her original forays into domestic space, and how those themes seemed to disappear while she explored gender and the body, but reappeared in connection with these themes later on. I enjoyed her installations on Ramps 5 and 6 (near the top) the most. She set up these sort of enclosed spaces with still scenes on the inside, examining and including many of her thoughts on gender, domesticity, and making (insert spider theme/connection here: Bourgeois is most known these days for her spider sculptures). They were intimate and beautiful.

Anyway, I fully enjoyed my exploration of the exhibit and wandering of the Museum's ramps. I still stand to my original description of the show, that the space really helped the pieces to shine. I still won't call myself a die-hard Bourgeois fan (the sculptures on their own were sometimes easy to walk by without stopping to look further, which is my way of deciding if I like a piece), but there was something very beautiful about the way her pieces sat in this building. I highly recommend going - the show is up through the end of September.

N.B. For all of you (Wright) who complain about working during the week and being stuck with Saturday crowds when you visit a Museum, I want to point out that the Museum was extremely hectic and crowded with foreign visitors and large camp groups that made it just as annoying at noon on a Tuesday as 3pm on a Saturday . So don't get down about weekend crowds, I think there's no avoiding them when you're seeing a quality show!

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