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Louise Bourgeois X Günther Förg

To Unravel a Torment

28 February - 7 April 2018

Lithograph 1 of 19
Lithograph 2 of 19
Lithograph 3 of 19
Lithograph 4 of 19
Lithograph 5 of 19
Lithograph 6 of 19
Lithograph 7 of 19
Lithograph 8 of 19
Lithograph 9 of 19
Lithograph 10 of 19
Lithograph 11 of 19
Lithograph 12 of 19
Lithograph 13 of 19
Lithograph 14 of 19
Lithograph 15 of 19
Lithograph 16 of 19
Lithograph 17 of 19
Lithograph 18 of 19
Lithograph 19 of 19
Lithograph on vintage cloth
Detail view, 'Caryatid', by Louise Bourgeois, 2001
Lithograph 2 of 7
Lithographs 3 and 4 of 7
Detail view, 'WWM (Working with Maurice) (Full Portfolio of Seven Works), 1990
Detail view, 'WWM (Working with Maurice) (Full Portfolio of Seven Works), 1990
Installation view, 'Bourgeois X Förg', 2018
Installation view, 'Bourgeois X Förg', 2018
Installation view, 'Bourgeois X Förg', 2018
Installation view, 'Bourgeois X Förg', 2018
Installation view, 'Bourgeois X Förg', 2018
Installation view, 'Bourgeois X Förg', 2018
Installation view, 'Bourgeois X Förg', 2018
Installation view, 'Bourgeois X Förg', 2018

Press Release

There was this terrific, intense identification with the sculpture. I visualized a caryatid or a woman cut in two…But I kept thinking: ‘You’re not a caryatid, you’re not an animal, you’re not passive. You’re active. Don’t let this happen to you.’

Louise Bourgeois, 1992-


Burning in Water - New York is pleased to present Louise Bourgeois x Günther Förg: To Unravel A Torment. The exhibition includes Louise Bourgeois’ What Is The Shape of This Problem? portfolio, composed of nine diptychs, installed in accordance with the artist’s original instructions. Additional works by Louise Bourgeois include a unique self-portrait of the artist on vintage linen, while the rear gallery is devoted to Günther Förg’s WWM suite of large-scale prints.

Produced in 1999, What Is The Shape of This Problem? - exhibited here in its entirety - reflects a transitional moment in Louise Bourgeois’ career and life. The series has precedents stretching back to Bourgeois’ earliest bodies of work, but also portends the trajectory of her artistic output in the final decade of her life.

Louise Bourgeois’ interest in the print medium was lifelong. She inherited an early appreciation for the medium from her father, who was an avid print collector. Before immigrating to the US, Bourgeois had opened her own print gallery in Aubusson in 1938, and she later opened another print gallery, Erasmus Books and Prints, in New York in the mid-1950s.

During her artistic career spanning seven decades, Bourgeois’ own productivity as a printmaker was largely restricted to two eras: the 1940s and the late 1990s-2010. Bourgeois’ seminal early portfolio He Disappeared Into Complete Silence (1946), which was the first of her works to be acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, was a series of eight diptychs pairing colorful architectural imagery with text-based images. The motif of woman-as-edifice is one that Bourgeois would later recapitulate in the 2000s in works such as Self-Portrait as a Caryatid (2001) and Pregnant Caryatid (2001). With What Is The Shape Of This Problem?, Bourgeois re-visited the same format of paired illustration and text images that she had used over fifty years earlier.

Bourgeois’ works are complemented by a series of dark, enigmatic prints by Günther Förg: WWM (1990). Large, monochromatic lithographs rendered with black pigment, the works recall both Forg’s monochromatic paintings from the 1970s and his seminal “lead” paintings. For Förg, lithography yielded similar tactile satisfactions to working with lead - allowing him to render images from a black expanse by furrowing, agitating and accreting his materials. The WWM prints constitute a rare example of later, non-photographic work by Förg that features overtly figurative elements. Encoded within the black background of the prints are an array of ambiguous anatomical and symbolic references, including hands, teeth, masks and heads.

Typically thought of as a resolutely abstract painter, Förg is most frequently associated with a geometric approach to abstraction elaborated by his key influencers, such as Blinky Palermo, Barnett Newman, and Ellsworth Kelly. This conception of his work has solidified the perception of Förg as an abstract painter whose primary subject was the legacy of Modernism. However, Förg considered the group of artists with whom he was in profound dialogue to include figurative artists, particularly Edvard Munch, Philip Guston, Paul Klee and Georg Baselitz. Yet Förg saw the figurative elements in his work as archetypal rather than descriptive:

As for the figurative thing, older artists have always informed what I do. Someone like Munch is incredibly important to me and he, of course, is a figurative painter. In my own paintings, you might sense a figure - but it is not explicitly a figure. Or another example is the series of ‘Masks’ that depict human heads - but these are not portraits, not specific. They’re reduced to some kind of essence; so, on one level, you could call this abstract too.

As with the included Bourgeois works, Förg’s WWM pieces seem to offer the viewer selective, furtive glimpses into a deeply enshrouded, ultimately ineffable, psychological milieu.

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