Louise Bourgeois is one of the most prominent artists of the 20th century. Discovered late in her career, she lived through the tumultuous history of the last century with an impressive life story. In art history, there are many artists whose works are based on their autobiographies, but Bourgeois is one with a very special twist: rather than move towards her art through her biography, Bourgeois anchored herself in her autobiography through her art—so much so that her autobiography and her work cannot be detached from each other.
This very special condition creates the most unique dimension of her art: as an artist relying on her past, she did not concentrate on a narrow, flat and tight expression of her personal history. On the contrary, using that history as an omnipotent possibility of reflecting on the general and universal history of women, she created wondrous works. Some of her works are not only the landmarks of the 20th century art, but also striking examples of being expressive to the utmost degree, at once disturbing and lyrical. All her sculptures could be qualified in this category, amongst the likes of Maman, Janus Fleuri or Cumul. With all these, she discovered what made her unique. Together with Meret Oppenheim, she reflected on feminist issues by not merely harboring on the issue, but more by emphasizing the male power building elements. Doing that, she did not refrain from using very latent references to surrealism.
Three issues are tightly bound in her works: memory, identity and space. It is natural to deal with the issues of memory once an artist is into the autobiographical elements. However, in Bourgeois‘ work, memory plays a more constructive role—not as an element connecting her to the past, but more to today. The same is true also for identity. Identity does not create Bourgeois’ work; rather, her work creates her identity in a more destructive way. Her search for an identity is no easy matter. At every step we take, the limits and attempts are both a reconstruction and destruction concomitantly. The third element, space, plays the role of the memory in most of her drawings and graphic works. Space is both the liberating and the entrapping element for the artist, and this is what gives us the togetherness of the repulsive and attractive.
Bourgeois‘ graphic works, which are not to be considered outside her drawings, situate themselves in a different way, as they gain a different meaning through the sculptures. It is surprising that while her sculptures are tools of resistance, her drawings are a bridge of both consolation and reconciliation. The childish language of these works creates a more reconciling environment for Bourgeois in her everyday life—so much so that the works she creates are larger than life.