“Art is a guaranty of sanity,” said Louise Bourgeois – a woman for whom nothing, least of all the materials with which she worked, was lacking in meaning. This summer, “Louise Bourgeois: 1911–2010,” shows at Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, having travelled there from the National Gallery of Canada. It’s a powerful selection of works from throughout Bourgeois’s career, and a testament to her unique approach to modernist sculpture.
From Bourgeois’s artistic beginnings in the 1940s through to her death in 2010, she made form come alive with personal associations. Vital to Bourgeois was the unconscious, as her years of psychoanalysis taught her. Here, people and concepts blur and merge. In dreams and neuroses, mothers, fathers, children and lovers – all flashpoints for Bourgeois – enter the haunting, and still very real, territory of myth and archetype. Among others, contemporary art therapists and their patients owe much to Bourgeois’s pioneering work.
At MOCCA, Bourgeois is paired with Berlin/Montreal-based sculptor David Armstrong Six – whose work has uncanny, if superficial, similarities to hers. For an artist as famously troubled as Bourgeois (and for Armstong, who clearly shows Bourgeois’s heavy influence in his work), the selections on display at MOCCA have an airy feel and a conspicuously positive mood throughout. Yet, as Bourgeois herself knew, art, especially after brushes with suffering and death, can signal hope – the triumph of expression over annihilation.