17 October 2016

Louise Bourgeois in Bilbao and Bruton

In this blog there have been several encounters with Louise Bourgeois’ ‘spider’ sculptures (at the Royal Academy, at the Guggenheim Bilbao in 2015 and at Hauser & Wirth Somerset in 2014), but with only one exhibition of her work. That was Do Not Abandon Me, a show at the RWA Bristol in 2011 of Louise Bourgeois gouaches which had been adorned by Tracey Emin with small drawings and handwriting. Now two more extensive Bourgeois exhibitions have come along in just a few months.

The first, again at the Guggenheim Bilbao, was Louise Bourgeois Structures of Existence: the Cells, which ran from 18 March to 4 September 2016. In 2015 this exhibition was at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, and then the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow before Bilbao. From 13 October 2016 it will be at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark until 26 February 2017. The Haus der Kunst website and the Guggenheim’s continue to host extensive descriptions of the Cells and their place in the artist’s oeuvre. Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911 and died in her 98th year in Manhattan. She left France in 1938 on marrying an American art historian but continued to use French in titles of her works (eg Passage Dangereux, 1997, above) and when hand-writing on them. Between 1991 and the end of her life Bourgeois created 62 Cells, 25 of them in this show.

The Cells are room-sized spaces, often constructed as cages, which are stocked with objects having personal resonance for Bourgeois, often reaching back into her childhood (Red Room (Parents) 1994, below top). The full significance to the artist of a particular installation is unknowable but the visitor cannot fail to be drawn into her disturbing and claustrophobic world view (Spider 1997, lower left and Cell (Choisy) 1990-93, lower right).

At Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Louise Bourgeois Turning Inwards is an exhibition of sculpture and etchings. After opening with Spider 1996:

again these explore Bourgeois’ memories and feelings (I Go to Pieces: My Inner Life (#6) 2010, below top), but also reveal her keen observation of the natural world and the forms it provides (Swelling 2007, below lower).

There is also an exhibition of photographs of Louise Bourgeois taken in the final years of her life by Alex Van Gelder, Mumbling Beauty, and an opportunity to see the documentary Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine, directed by Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach in 2008.

Louise Bourgeois Turning Inwards ends on 1 January 2017.

An Addendum about Artist Rooms: Louise Bourgeois at Tate Modern hopefully will be added to this post before too long.

20 September 2016

Woody Allen’s ‘Café Society’

September in the UK often marks the general release of the Woody Allen’s most recent film, this year’s being Café Society, written, directed and narrated by Allen and also his first digital shooting. Set in the 1930s, it’s the story of a young New Yorker, Bobby Dorfman from the Bronx (Jesse Eisenberg), who sets off to Hollywood hoping for a job with his maternal uncle, Phil Stern. Phil is an agent with an impressive office and a secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), to match his success. Bobby turns out to be a dependable gofer and also starts to secure Vonnie’s affections, despite her already having a boyfriend in town. But before too long, Bobby discovers the identity of Vonnie’s on-off lover and abruptly returns to New York. Thanks to his gangster brother Ben, Bobby becomes a manager of a high society night club. He meets and marries one of the clients, another Veronica. One night, who should come into the club but Vonnie, now married to her lover. Bobby and Vonnie meet later and talk things over against the Manhattan backdrops Allen has made his own. Both being too sensible to jeopardise what they have, nothing worse befalls them than some bittersweet regrets for an unrequited love, whereas Ben gets his just deserts.

I thought Eisenberg was convincing as the ingénu in Tinsel Town, but lacked the presence needed to manage a high-class New York night spot. Stewart (last seen here as the PA in Clouds of Sils Maria) took every advantage offered by the part of Vonnie and carried the film. There were some vintage lines from Allen. The Dorfman family are probably stronger on one-liners than theology, for example when Bobby’s mother points out that “Too bad Jews don’t have an afterlife. They’d get a lot of business.” Another: “Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ But the examined one is no bargain.” The West Coast provided some splendid 1930s exterior locations, but some of the shots there and in New York were on the point of being overstocked and over-frocked with the period.

As for the ending, well there’s been a three hour time difference between the US East and West Coasts since the 1880s, even on New Year’s Eve. But then Allen’s Depression America, affluent and colourful, is not too constrained by the realities of the times, probably better depicted recently in Genius. Café Society is reportedly Allen’s 48th film. By comparison with his recent work, it’s a lot better than Magic in the Moonlight, and better than Irrational Man, but not as good as Blue Jasmine.