Louise Bourgeois is widely considered to have been one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. In a career spanning seventy years, she produced an intensely personal body of work that is as complex as it is diverse. Bourgeois created sculptures in a wide range of media: unique environments, or ‘cells’, in which she combined traditional marble and bronze sculptures alongside the everyday objects imbued with a strong emotional charge (furniture, clothes and empty bottles); prints and drawings; and hand-stitched works made of fabric.
Born in Paris, Bourgeois originally studied mathematics and geometry at the Sorbonne but switched to art in 1932. She moved to New York in 1938 upon her marriage to the American art historian, Robert Goldwater. Although she continued her artistic practice in America, her career evolved slowly. The Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective of her work in 1982, when she was seventy, marked a turning point. In an interview that coincided with the opening, Bourgeois explained that the imagery in her work, which deals with themes such as jealousy, violence, sexual desire, betrayal, fear, anxiety and loneliness, was wholly autobiographical and a form of catharsis. In 2000, she made the first sculpture in what would become an iconic series of giant spiders entitled Maman. She continued to work obsessively up until her death in 2010, aged ninety-eight.
Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911 in Paris and died in 2010 in New York. Her work is widely exhibited on the international stage and continues to inspire a rich body of academic and critical commentary. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has established an online digital catalogue raisonné of the 35,000 prints and illustrated books that she produced during her lifetime.
Robert Mapplethorpe inspired by
Comme Des Garçons inspired by
Simone Rocha inspired by
Simone Rocha returning to a touchstone inspiration—Louise Bourgeois, on whom Rocha wrote her art college thesis—as she revisited and elaborated ideas developed in seasons past. Her new collection was as evocative and distinctive as the previous few, but more circumscribed in its innovations. Which is fine, by the way—a designer on a hot streak has the right to catch her breath.
The influence of Bourgeois was evident from the first few looks, padded velvet ensembles assembled from undulating forms. She was there, too, in the collection’s reliance on tapestry fabrics woven from chenille: As Rocha explained after her show, Bourgeois’ family actually owned a tapestry factory, and Rocha had recently seen a show of Bourgeois’ work utilizing the material. The tapestry looks here either played to the fabric’s stiffness, as in the various tailored looks, or fought it bitterly, wrapping the material around the body and/or forcing it into sculptural ruffles. Rocha described the process as “getting her body into the process,” an apt phrase given the muscularity of these looks. Elsewhere, Rocha took a new whack at the naked floral dresses she sent out for Spring, embroidering chenille yarn onto tulle to create William Morris-esque patterns.
Louise Bourgeois’s Final Act
photographed by Alex van Gelder