Hauser & Wirth
I didn't have any particular favourite, but Louise Bourgeois’ work was very fascinating to me because of the way it challenged both my own personal views and general societal of what art could or should be. Her simplistic, 'childish’ style and use of materials such as gouache and crayons went outside the boundaries of what I had seen before in art and I think placed a specific emphasis on art being a tool for self expression and reflection on oneself over something that should appeal to others. Bourgeois used her art as a kind of therapy and a way to contemplate herself, domesticity, sexuality, death and a wide variety of other themes. Some of her most famous statues, her spiders, looked at her mother and Bourgeois’ tumultuous relationship with her, the spider a deliberate choice to reflect the fact that her mother was a weaver. Bourgeois wasn’t particularly subtle with this as one of her most well known spiders (Spider 1999) was titled ‘Maman’ or ‘Mother’ in English. However the spider was also chosen for its symbolism of protection, vulnerability and nurturing, reflecting her mother’s personality. The shapes of the spider lend itself well to this, with its spindly legs showing the vulnerability and the exaggerated height at 33-feet-tall giving it a slightly menacing, overbearing atmosphere.
This breaking of boundaries specifically when in relation to what art could or should be is a recurring theme throughout the exhibition; however each exhibition rejected conformity in different ways. Louise Bourgeois and her use of ‘childlike’ imagery, the garden with its complete disregard of the canvas or chisel, Fabian Peake and his abstract works and relatively simplistic shapes and the statue ‘Reaching Out’ and its depiction of a black woman.
‘Reaching Out’ was especially interesting to me, as not only was it one of the first things I noticed when we first arrived at the exhibition due to its placement in the centre of the courtyard, it also made me think more about a topic I had never really explored before, diversity in art. In a survey of 18 major American museums in 2019, only 1.2% of the artwork was by black artists in contrast to 85.4 percent being by white artists. These statistics likely closely mirror the percentages for which races are most highly represented. Before seeing this statue and later doing my own research it had never been a question I would have asked or thought about, a privilege I am very lucky to have. Going forward, I think I will take a further interest into who and what is being depicted in the art I consume, both in terms of races and cultures.
Apart from this, the themes of isolation and loneliness are something that even prior to the pandemic and lockdown almost all people were familiar with, but after a year of primarily communicating online, it is now a fully shared experience, connecting us to people we have never met. It seems to me a somewhat ironic contrast that one of the only things that is an almost guaranteed global experience and source of connection is a period of isolation. The use of phones as symbols for both isolation and as tools for connection is a theme throughout Prices work, and a similar statue called ‘Network’ depicts a 9-foot-tall man on his phone, which was unveiled in 2013 and aimed to encourage questions and conversations around who we choose to celebrate in art.
Overall, despite some of the artworks confusing me at first, upon further reflection I think I can conclusively say that going to Hauser and Wirth has shifted my views on art in a positive way. Although I like to think that I had a relatively open mind in terms of art prior to going on this trip, it has shown me that I can always find new ways to interpret art work, and has cemented the idea that art can be more than just the classical interpretations of it. It has also made me look further into questions I likely would have only thought about much later in life had I not seen ‘Reaching Out’, and that will hopefully lead to the art I choose to interact with being more diverse to more accurately represent the world we live in.