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Freud's Daughter: Louise Bourgeois at the Jewish Museum

Louise Bourgeois, The Destruction of the Father, 1974, latex, plaster, wood, fabric, and red light. Collection Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD

Coming to the Jewish Museum this spring is an exhibition of artwork by the late French-American artist Louise BourgeoisLouise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughtercurated by guest curator Philip Larratt-Smith and coordinated by Leon Levy Assistant Curator Shira Backer, explores‌ ‌Bourgeois’s‌ ‌art‌ ‌and‌ ‌writings‌ ‌in‌ ‌light‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌complex‌ ‌and‌ ‌ambivalent‌ ‌relationship‌ ‌with‌ ‌Freudian‌ ‌psychoanalysis.‌ The exhibition features approximately 40 artworks from throughout Bourgeois’ career and will be on display from May 21 - September 26, 2021.


Perhaps more than any other twentieth-century artist, Louise Bourgeois produced a body of work that consistently and profoundly engaged with psychoanalytic theory and practice. Bourgeois considered artmaking a form of psychoanalysis and believed that through it she could access the unconscious. In addition to the numerous works on display, this exhibition‌‌ ‌showcases‌ ‌a‌ ‌selection‌ ‌of‌ ‌Bourgeois’s‌ ‌original‌ ‌psychoanalytic‌ ‌writings‌‌—‌many‌ ‌of‌ ‌them‌ ‌never-before-seen by the public. These writings consist of dream journals, notes and other texts that she produced while documenting the intensive psychoanalytic treatment she underwent from 1952 to 1985. Not only do the texts document the effects of the treatment and illuminate the artist's methods and motivations, but they also represent original contributions to the field of psychoanalysis, especially with respect to female sexuality, symbol formation and the nature of the artist.

Among the works presented are the Personages of the late 1940s; the organic forms in plaster and latex of the 1960s; the pivotal installation The Destruction of the Father (1974); Passage Dangereux (1997), the largest of the artist’s Cell installations; and fabric sculptures from the last 15 years of her life.

About Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris, in 1911, to parents who ran a tapestry restoration business. A gifted student, she helped out in the workshop by drawing missing elements in the scenes depicted on the tapestries. In 1938, after dabbling in math and then turning to art, she moved to New York with her husband Robert Goldwater. While she initially focused on painting and printmaking, she shifted her focus toward sculpture in the late 1940s. After a long hiatus in which she immersed herself in psychoanalysis, Bourgeois produced an exhibition in 1964 that presented strange, organically shaped plaster sculptures that contrasted the totemic wood pieces she had exhibited earlier. While her idiosyncratic approach did not immediately gain her applause, Bourgeois finally took center stage--at 70 years of age--with a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art. She continued making art until her death in 2010 because, for her, art was a "guarantee of sanity.” 

Louise Bourgeois as the "mother of spiders". Photo © Peter Bellamy @ www.crystalbridges.com

About the Jewish Museum

Founded in 1904 in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, where it was housed for more than four decades, the Jewish Museum is one of the world’s preeminent institutions devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture. Now located on New York City’s Museum Mile, the museum houses a unique collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting the global Jewish experience over more than 4,000 years. In addition to exhibitions, the museum also offers lectures, talks, performances and other programming.

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