Louise Bourgeois in 1983


Louise Bourgeois died May 31, and by that time her reputation was established as a mentor for multiple generations and an innovator in the fields of sculpture, feminism, and living the life of the artist. Established but not sealed, because Bourgeois’ work encomasses such a rich variety of media and theme. In 1983, on the occasion of the artist’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern and before Bourgeois’ ascent to grand dame, Robert Storr discussed her “non-career”:

For 40 years Louise Bourgeois has resisted assimilation. Indeed, she is the last major figure of her generation whose “art world” reputation and influence on younger artists involve no significant debt to official approval or to wide public recognition and acceptance. Rather, the respect she commands is directly attributable to the active part she has continued to take in the ongoing struggles of contemporary art, and most importantly to the imposing and virtually unmediated presence of the work itself. By current standards, in fact, she scarcely had an “art career” at all. Instead, Bourgeois has chosen to remain at the periphery of the “scene,” though always close enough to feel its pulse, and has committed her full attention to the exploration of her own obsessive preoccupations, protecting the hermetic nature of her art and the idiosyncratic rhythm of its gestation from early demands of the market on one hand, and from stagnant isolation on the other. It is a position occupied out of both choice and necessity, and as much as it manifests a personal diffidence and a profound ambivalence toward authority and the mechanisms of power, it also expresses an unshakable sense of the real worth of what she has done and of the discipline required to do it.