Thursday, March 12, 2009

Three comics-related shows in DC. 1. Louise Bourgeois.

Warren drove André and me up to Washington D.C. the day before we left the States, and what do you know, we managed to check on three shows that can somehow be related to the expanded field of comics (I'm ripping off this expression from my good friend and mentor Domingos Isabelinho).
The first was a Louise Bourgeois show at the Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden of the Smithonian Institute. At the entrance one finds one of her magnificent spider moms at the entrance. Although it's one of the smallest, it is no less imposing...
Here a very drastic (and probably dumb) reduction of the History of Art of the 20th century. Just a thought, really. Dichotomies and clear-cut categories are usually ridiculous (we try to escape them all the time, especially with this show), but sometimes they do let us think about things in a pretty organised manner, upon which we can construe or from which we can step away. Whether we like them on a personal basis or not, it's probably pretty difficult to come up with other two names than Picasso's and Duchamp's as the greatest artists of the 20th century. “Artists” in its most comprehensive, powerful, full-fledged sense.
Louise Bourgeois is perhaps the third. Not actually in an hierachical way, mind you. Here's the thought then. If Picasso was an artist in its Adamic power, in which everything he touched became art, Duchamp was rather Luciferian, in the sense that he also mimicked the Adamic gesture of naming things by their true or new (or true and new) names, i.e., “art”, but in order to corrode and subvert the entire building of art.
Louise Bourgeois, however, brings a perfect balance of both impulses. The title of the collection of her essays, writing, and interviews says it all: “Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father”. Picasso and Duchamp. Adam and Lucifer. Creation and Destruction and Reconstruction. Solve et coagula. Make it up, fuck it up, bring it up again (and fuck up some more).
Where our interests, tastes and inclinations are concerned, the most important work is undoubtedly He Disappeared into Complete Silence , a sequence of nine engravings with text with which she did a book. To a certain extent, we can related it to other print work by the artist, such as the puritan, given the fact it presents us with a story told by images and a text. It was begun in 1947 and it has met many versions and states over the decades. I actually cannot tell you which version/state is the one at this show. It was also forbidden to take pictures of them, but I took a few before being warned, so let's see if they hold up here for a while...
I'm calling it sequence because it is supposed to be read by its rightful order. It tells us a story. It is a "drama of the self", according to Bourgeois' own words. Based somewhat on the life of a real person (you can find more details in the wonderful book Destruction of the Father. Reconstruction of the Father. writings and Interviews: 1923-1997, Violette editions) it presents us with a somewhat whimsical story of unrequited love, of loss, of the impossibility of communication, of people that miss the bus (of love, that is, and shit). The images show us towers, buildings, vertical structures. Seemingly, they have nothing to do with the text in any direct way, or perhaps they just "illustrate" an urban texture in which the story unfolds. Or perhaps they force us to look up where no horizon, no future, no hope is even possible.It was wonderful to look at the engravings (a first time for me, at least) just as we stepped from an experience of a show where artists try to expand the relationships of text and image, story and visibility, support and fruiton...
Here's a picture of Warren and André checking the small brochure of the show. Warren doodled something on it. Perhaps he'll show us what.

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