Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait

Louise Bourgeois. À l’Infini (To Infinity). 2008 34400

No. 5 of 14 from the installation set À l’Infini (To Infinity), 2008. Soft ground etching, with selective wiping, watercolor, gouache, pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor wash additions. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased with funds provided by Agnes Gund, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann, and Katherine Farley and Jerry Speyer, and Richard S. Zeisler Bequest (by exchange). 590.2010.5

Deborah Wye: Bourgeois started working with the publisher, Benjamin Shiff, in the late 1980s, but their collaboration really deepened in the mid-2000s, when he moved close by. At that point, he encouraged her toward an even more experimental approach to printmaking.

Publisher Benjamin Shiff: My name is Benjamin Shiff. You are looking at A l’Infini. In 2005 we bought our favorite papermaker a mold so that they could make by hand the sheets of paper that you're looking at. We set a printer up with a large enough press to print these gigantic sheets. So it was really the time when we were set up to work on this scale.

Louise, primarily at that point in her life, was interested in very large-scale works that would be all-embracing. A l’Infini and other large projects that Louise made during that period are supposed to take the viewer over and be completely immersive. You see phallic shapes, you see eggs, you see veins, you see string theory, you see wombs holding little babies, sacks filled with liquid.

Louise's process was very wet. It wasn't a clean room. It wasn't antiseptic, it wasn't organized. It was volatile. There were these huge large sheets everywhere all around the room drying, there was dripping and it was very bloody. It was very passionate. It was very sensual. What she really was doing was trying to digest the unknown with very known elements—and then in the language which was her language, which was the creative language of not knowing what was going to come next.

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