The Louise Bourgeois Retrospective in Paris

Bourgeois4 Jessica Ferri on the exhibit at the Centre Pompidou, in More Intelligent Life:

A few weeks ago I went to the Centre Pompidou in Paris to see the Louise Bourgeois retrospective (which is travelling to New York’s Guggenheim this summer). I’ll admit that I didn’t really know what to expect from the 96-year-old (and still kicking) artist. Upon entering the show, I was confronted with a replica of the artist’s childhood home in a metal cage, with a guillotine hanging above the entry. A chilling introduction.

Bourgeois works in an array of media–ceramic, canvas, wood, metal, iron, cloth, paint, bronze and more. She is best known for her public-space pieces, grand-scale sculptures of spiders so large they must rest outside. These are compelling, haunting sights. It is as if Bourgeois is taking our darkest and most shame-filled secrets, and then blowing them up into monsters that prey the earth.

She has a habit of prying out private thoughts and shoving them into the glare of the sun. She tends towards sexualised, organic shapes, and then lines them up on wooden blocks the size of coffee tables.

The spider, weaving her web, stands as the gatekeeper to her work. She reappears frequently; the ultimate domestic power-house, the spider’s web is both home and weapon.