Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction

Louise Bourgeois. The Quartered One. 1964-65 498

Bronze, 58 3/4 x 28 3/8 x 21 3/8" (149 x 72 x 54.1 cm). Gift of Henriette Bonnotte in memory of Georges Bonnotte. © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY

Deborah Wye: The “lair” emerged in Bourgeois’s work just at the time that this work, The Quartered One, was created, and that is the early 1960s. The lairs referred to cocoons or places where creatures of the natural world could live and be protected.

She barely worked in the 1950s because she became very depressed and went into psychoanalysis. When she returned to work after a long hiatus, she was much more interested in expressing emotions, which lent themselves to this organic body of work that looks so biomorphic.

The Quartered One and another lair from this period are the first hanging works that Bourgeois created. And she had said that it was a symbol for precariousness. Moods were always changing, her relationships to other people were always changing. And if a sculpture was hanging, it could always slightly move and slightly adjust to the situation.

Bourgeois was well-known for wood sculptures, but she wanted something more pliable and more fluid. So she started to make molds in rubber and latex and poured plaster and molded plaster in them. And this was cast in bronze, really, for the sake of permanence. And I think she liked the fact that her work would be in that long tradition of bronze sculpture.

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