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Friday, 7. October 2011

Works of Old Age....?

Works of Old Age....?

Our homage marking the 100th birthday of Louise Bourgeois, who died last year, will be on view at the Fondation Beyeler through 8 January 2012. While installing the exhibition, her long-time assistant and confidant Jerry Gorovoy and I talked in some depth about Matisse. Towards the end of her long life, when her physical but not mental powers were waning, Bourgeois sought a medium she could handle more easily. She found this in the materials of the dresses she had worn, which she transformed into highly poetic imagery. A few of these works are currently on display at the Fondation. As we were discussing the Acanthes studio, Jerry and I wondered whether Matisse might not have had a similar feeling. He, too, immensely active despite grave illness, found in the cut-outs a medium that permitted him to continue working physically. For Louise Bourgeois, dresses held memories, so we might say her textile imagery was basically composed of memories. One might ask whether the repertoire of forms Matisse developed could justly been viewed in an analogous way. Surely this is true of the two large-format Ocèanie pieces, which definitely represent memories of his stay in Polynesia. Then, too, both Matisse and Bourgeois conceived and arranged their works, yet entrusted their technical execution to assistants whom they carefully supervised.