In the 1980s Bourgeois began to construct enigmatic sculptural environments she calls “cells” that provide settings for her personal narratives. Here she explores the concept of the lair, a dwelling from the animal world. Bourgeois has said that a lair is “a protected place you can enter to take refuge,” but she has also acknowledged the possibility of isolation: “The security of a lair can also be a trap.”
Gallery label from Multiplex: Directions in Art, 1970 to Now, November 21, 2007-July 28, 2008.
Articulated Lair, Bourgeois has said, is “a protected place you can enter to take refuge,” but at the same time she allows that “the security of the lair can also be a trap.” She separates this charged space from the world with a simple screen—a row of thin metal panels, hinged, or articulated, at their edges. There is an entrance at either end; no matter where Bourgeois’s “invading, frightening visitor” enters, you have “a back door through which you can escape.” Inside, for furniture, is a single small stool, as though the lair’s resident were child-sized and sought no company. Yet there are other presences here, hanging against the walls: pendulous forms in black rubber, suggesting body parts. Perhaps a hunter is storing prey; or we could be inside some creature’s stomach, among its internal organs.
These rubber shapes have ante-cedents in Surrealist biomorphism, and in the paintings of Arshile Gorky. At the same time, the anxiety over the integrity of the human body that runs through so much of Bourgeois’s work anticipates the concerns of many younger artists of the 1980s and 1990s. Articulated Lair is simultaneously safe and ensnaring—a cryptic refuge for human frailty.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 320.