The Erotic Object: Surrealist Sculpture from the Collection
June 24, 2009–January 4, 2010
Though Bourgeois has described Sleeping Figure as "a war figure that cannot face the world and is defensive," likening its face to a mask and its arms to lances, the work's narrow, tapered shape suggests vulnerability and its jutting limbs seem to support rather than defend its body. Sleeping Figure belongs to The Personages, a group of more than eighty totemic wood sculptures the artist made in New York between 1945 and 1950. Bourgeois has characterized these works as surrogates for the family and friends she left behind in France when she moved to New York in 1938.
Although she was never formally part of the Paris-based group, Bourgeois knew many Surrealist poets and artists and shared their interest in primitive art and the unconscious. In spite of these affinities, her work can be understood as a rejection of the male-dominated movement. While the form of this figure is phallic, its gender is ambiguous—a departure from Surrealism's objectification and fragmentation of female bodies.
Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors, October 3, 2010-Februart 28, 2011
Curator, Sarah Suzuki: Louise Bourgeois moved from France to New York in 1938, where she eventually studied at Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 and there, she came into contact with a number of European Surrealist artists who had taken refuge in the States during World War II. Surrealism—with its biomorphic forms and totemic figures—was just one of many touchstones for Bourgeois, who made use of her own biography to address larger themes of motherhood, femininity and sexuality.
Curator, Jodi Hauptman: Sleeping Figure is part of a group of more than eighty totemic works made in wood known as Personages. Bourgeois was an artist for whom certain motifs and themes recurred across mediums. In her nearby works on paper, you'll see references to bodies, hair and plant forms. They appear abstract even as they evoke the body. They're at once delicate and defensive.