Five things we learned at the Louise Bourgeois: Twosome exhibition

We visited the Tel Aviv Museum of Art's highly anticipated Louise Bourgeois exhibition. Here's what we found out...
©Alex Van Gelder

We learned that...

Passage Dangereux, 1997
Louise Bourgeois

1. It's all in the details

Don't be afraid to lean in a little closer, or peak your head past the wire caging keeping you safe from the Passage Dangereux. There are hundreds of well-kept secrets embedded in Bourgeois' work, particularly in the section of the exhibition devoted to her very psychological Cells. Relish in Neil Gaiman's Coraline meets The Shawshank Redemption with a touch of The Twilight Zone thrown in for good merit as you take an extra minute to notice the red light bulb hanging above a child-sized chair & mirror or peak inside a cell to find a love note signed in red ink: "j'taime."

2. She says one thing but means "your mother"

Bourgeois' mother, Joséphine, was an essential role in both her life and lifeworks. While her mother left her at way too young of an age (Bourgeois was barely 21 when she died), Joséphine lives on through the entire gamut of Bourgeois' repertoire–especially inside her famous bronze, steel, and marble spider sculptures that guard the world's most esteemed galleries (i.e. the Tate Modern in London and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa). Additionally, spiders spin silk; in Spider Couple, the artist associates this delicate action with her mother's avocation as a tapestry weaver and restorer.

Portrait Cells, 2000
Louise Bourgeois

3. It's a material world

While most artists favor one or two mediums, it only takes entering the first room of the exhibition–which features three contrasting pieces: a (glass-)boxed in embracing couple made out of fabric, leather, stainless steel, and a prosthetic leg, a phallic hanging piece called Fillette made by layering latex on plaster, and a bronze piece seeking unity between male and female, past and future–to realize that Bourgeois is a woman of many materials. Pay close attention as her decisions are not random; for instance, the fabric and thread used to create Child Devoured by Kisses alludes to significant "signposts" from her life and the cast aluminum that enrobes her two figures in Couple helps to 'reflect' her deeply rooted anxieties.

Louise Bourgeois

4. Size matters

Louise Bourgeois said it herself, "My emotions are inappropriate to my size." With more than 50 works creeping behind every nook and cranny of the Multi-Purpose Gallery, hidden in the basement of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, there is something absolutely breathtaking about turning the whitewashed corner and being slapped in the face with the exhibit's title piece, Twosome. This obscure kinetic sculpture, a-typical of Bourgeois' style, features two large black tanks that fit inside one another, then shift apart, yet never fully separate–reflective of earlier motifs which narrow in on an uncut umbilical cord attaching mother and child for eternity.

The Personages, 1947-49
Louise Bourgeois

5. This is not a murder scene

All signs point to police tape: the dimly lit rooms, the blinding spotlights shining down on the culprits (her cast of characters), the complete absence of humanity (albeit we were there on a Monday afternoon), even the unsettling whir that was only later explained by the mechanized Twosome brought back fond memories of the last time I was in an interrogation room. Nonetheless, while her thoughts seem dark, and her scenes seem murderous, she merely uses art as an outlet to personify and come to terms with her most intense emotions.

"In real life, I identify with the victim, / in my art I am the murderer" - Louise Bourgeois

© TWOSOME 1991 Steel paint and electric light Photo by Peter Bellamy

© Mark Setteducati

More cool art in Israel

More to explore