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LOUISE BOURGEOIS: COMPLETE BOOKS & PRINTS

Louise Bourgeois: Complete Books & Prints
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Cat. No. 610/V

Ascension Lente

State/Variant:
State V of XIV
Date:
1949
Alternate Title:
Le Grand Flottant (The Large Floating Form); The Disappearance of the Mother
Descriptive Title:
English translation: "Slow Ascent"
Themes:
Abstraction, Nature
Techniques:
Engraving
Description:
Engraving
Support:
Smooth, wove paper
Dimensions:
plate: 8 3/4 x 6 7/8" (22.2 x 17.5 cm); sheet: 9 13/16 x 13 3/8" (25 x 34 cm)
Signature:
"Louise Bourgeois." lower right margin, pencil.
Inscription:
"monoprint" lower left margin, pencil, artist's hand;
"Looking at me sideways / she said "would you / mind sweeping that / room over I see some/ dirt near the piano / upon my word of honour, / sir I could not possibly / do it here / title of two prints sold / by Jerry Gorovoy of / Max Hutchinson Gallery / in Sept 1980" left margin, pencil, artist's hand.

The alternate title "Le Grand Flottant" derives from an inscription on an impression of state XIII that is not in MoMA's Collection and is not included in the Evolving Composition Diagram below.
Publisher:
unpublished
Printer:
The artist at Atelier 17, New York
Edition:
3 known impressions of state V
Impression:
Not numbered
Edition Information:
Not issued as a published edition at any state.
State Changes and Additions:
Changes from state IV, in engraving: small form at upper left further delineated; hair-like shading added to elongated leftmost form; shading added to two petal-like forms and crosshatching added to large crescent.
Artist’s Remarks:
Bourgeois talked about this composition as one that moves "away from realism. It is more symbolic and suggestive, but with a base in reality." She noted that all the "rigidity" present in "He Disappeared into Complete Silence" has "become looser.... This has to do with security... the security of the nest that does not have to stand on the floor. It is safer to be above."

There is "the notion of constant danger... day to day... a fight against danger... and for living." There is the safety of "nesting together" and "the bondage of people who sleep together." She spoke of a pomegranate wherein the "seeds can be seen nestling." She recalled some of her plaster lair sculptures of the sixties such as "Fée Couturière," with its openings that "allow only a tiny bird to go in."

Discussing the title, Bourgeois described "self-improvement" as "an ascent... a ladder." But the sentiments reflected in this print are not about "perfection," only about "going toward improvement." (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 120.)
Curatorial Remarks:
The inscription on this composition is a parable that is found in slightly varied forms in several places. The first line of the parable is the title of a separate composition, "Looking at Her Sidewise" (cat. no. 635). The whole parable also appears on "Hanging Weeds" (cat. no. 645) and in the artist's daybook of 1947.

The fragments of brown tape visible around the edges of this print appear to have been applied for the purpose of flattening the print as it dried.

In the second half of the 1940s, Bourgeois spent time at Atelier 17, the print workshop of Stanley William Hayter. The workshop had transferred operations from Paris to New York during the war years. It is not known precisely which prints she made at the workshop since she also worked at home on a small press. The designation of “the artist at Atelier 17” as printer means that the impression was likely made at the workshop. The designation is based on dates, inscriptions, techniques favored at Atelier 17, and/or stylistic similarities to images in the illustrated book “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” which the artist repeatedly cited as having been made at Atelier 17. It is also possible that Bourgeois worked on certain plates both at home and at the workshop, or pulled impressions at both places.
Bibliography:
Acton, David. "Louise Bourgeois." In David Acton, The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionism. Worcester, MA: Worcester Art Museum, 2001, 78.

This text describes "Ascension lente" specifically as well as Bourgeois' printmaking career more generally.
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 53
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
144.1990.3
This Work in Other Collections:
Worcester Art Museum, MA

Ascension Lente
1949

States

Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State I of XIV
1949
NOT IN MoMA'S COLLECTION Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
NOT IN MoMA'S COLLECTION State II of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State III of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State IV of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State V of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State V of XIV, variant
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State VI of XIV, variant
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State VI of XIV, variant
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State VII of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State VIII of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State IX of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State IX of XIV, variant
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State X of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State XI of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State XII of XIV
1949
NOT IN MoMA'S COLLECTION Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
NOT IN MoMA'S COLLECTION State XIII of XIV
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State XIII of XIV, variant
1949
Louise Bourgeois. Ascension Lente. 1949
State XIV of XIV
1949