Bourgeois made this three-part print in conjunction with two large-scale Cell sculptures titled Red Room (Parents) and Red Room (Child). Here, a whole family is overcome with hysteria, as evidenced by their rigid, arching bodies. Fraught family relationships, and psychic pain’s effects on the body, were among the recurring themes in Bourgeois’s art. As she so vividly noted, “The subject of pain is the business I am in.”
Gallery label from Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait, Sept. 24, 2017-Jan. 28, 2018.
Following in the footsteps of her father, Louise Bourgeois developed an early love for printed images and formed a collection of both prints and illustrated books. Her own printmaking began in the late 1930s, after she married and moved to New York from Paris. As a fledging painter and printmaker, she gravitated to Atelier 17, the celebrated workshop established in New York in the 1940s by Stanley William Hayter. She enjoyed the company of fellow Europeans who gathered there in the war years, but also worked on prints at home, using a small press.
After turning to sculpture in the late 1940s, Bourgeois virtually abandoned printmaking until the late 1980s, when her newly found celebrity brought with it numerous invitations to make prints. She began working with Peter Blum Edition and Osiris Editions, both of New York, and also responded to many requests for benefit prints for social causes. This reacquaintance with the medium awakened a natural but dormant inclination to scratch, scrape, and burnish copperplates, and it is the intaglio techniques that she favors, although she makes lithographs intermittently with Judith Solodkin of SOLO Press. For intaglio she has a fertile collaborative relationship with printer Felix Harlan of Harlan & Weaver workshop. Overall, Bourgeois has made some four hundred prints, in a creative process that involves constant revision and overworking with hand additions as her imagery evolves.
The personal themes of loneliness, anxiety, sexual tension, and jealousy have preoccupied Bourgeois since her early years as an artist and continue to find expression in her sculpture, installations, and prints. She has called her ongoing narrative “a drama of the self,” and its embodiment in art has been an essential mechanism for controlling her volatile emotions.
Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 222.