The power of obsession

September 1, 2022

Berlin • Louise Bourgeois at Gropius Bau

The exhibition, with 90 works, is intended as an intimate and universal diary

Can one evoke maternal love with the characteristics of a spider? Apparently so, Louise Bourgeois (Paris 1911-New York 2010) explains: “Like a spider, my mother was a weaver; very kind, patient, delicate, a friend in whom to seek protection.” The iconic spiders, made in a variety of ways and materials, most famously the giant sculpture Maman, also become symbols of perseverance Just like maman, Joséphine really did repair tapestries in her husband’s textile restoration workshop in Paris. She held warps and wefts together by stitching up fabric tears, just as she wittily repaired the rips in her family life. From this beginning, the domestic environment as an ambivalent place of love and suffering, security and fear, truths and lies, the artist began to shape intricate emotional dynamics. She explored the themes of the couple, femininity, and sexuality, making introspection her mode of knowing and caring in her paintings and drawings since the 1940’s. It was a lonely and unconventional journey, abandoning the Parisian moorings of surrealism and also those of the New York avant-garde when, in ‘38, she arrived in the States with her husband, art historian Robert Goldwater. “My art is both energy and awareness, body and mind”-a difficult combination of conflicting emotions that sometimes dismays, repels, and reminds each of something of his or her own. She makes her obsessions her strength, a personal symbolic symbolism of recurring motifs: spiders, mutilated bodies, phallic protuberances, clothing-assembled with an evocative capacity that is unparalleled and paves the way for much contemporary art. Since ‘82, major museums have dedicated major retrospectives to her, and her international success was consolidated with Documenta in ‘92 and the lifetime achievement award at the Venice Biennale in ‘93, an award that was the harbinger of a new creative season spanning another 17 years.


"The Woven Child", a monographic exhibition at Gropius Bau, shows the artist’s extraordinary ability to renew her expressive repertoire in the last two decades of her long career, with installation sculptures made mostly of fabrics from her private sphere. The fabrics become “skin” for objects, soft human shapes, disturbing, fascinating and totemic faces suspended in the void or entwined in desperate and violent intercourse. About ninety works, also her Cells, drawings, collages, books, which continue to reveal an astonishing intimate and universal diary.

Louise Bourgeois

The Woven Child


Gropius Bau

Curated by di Ralph Rugoff

Julienne Lorz

Until the 23/10

The Author

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