Certain figures in history are so avant-garde they often have to wait years and even decades for the world to catch up to them. The artist Louise Bourgeois is one of those visionaries.
She was born in 1911, a year before Jackson Pollock, in Paris and emigrated to New York in 1938 with her American husband, but she was neither a Surrealist in a strict sense nor an Abstract Expressionist, even though she was close to many of those artists. Although her work touched on several 20th-century art movements and she was a proto-feminist in her choice of subject matter, her style was essentially her own.
The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill will examine her legacy with a screening tomorrow at 6 p.m. of “Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress, and the Tangerine,” a 2008 film directed by Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach, and a discussion with Ms. Wallach and Terrie Sultan, the Parrish’s director, afterward. The event is presented in partnership with Hamptons Doc Fest.
The film documents the artist for more than a decade beginning in 1993 and ending a year before her death in 2008. It reveals not only her personal working process, but the life story and harrowing childhood that gave rise to many of her themes: sexuality, the body, and death. Her approach is often based on the unconscious and how that is formed by early life in the home.
A painter, sculptor, and installation artist, Bourgeois’s subjects can be creepy, powerful, and delicately beautiful, sometimes all at once. Despite being raised by parents who were art dealers with a focus on antique tapestries, she sought stability in her early studies in math and geometry at the Sorbonne. Eventually, however, she left to study art.
Her early years were spent painting, which she gave up in 1949. She then concentrated on sculpture before moving on to embrace feminist art in the mid-1960s. Her career really took off in the 1980s after several exhibitions in the early years, including a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. By 1993, she was representing the United States in the Venice Biennale. In 1994 the Brooklyn Museum and Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery had exhibitions of her 1982 to 1993 work. More shows and retrospectives followed.
Now, more than a decade after her death, her work continues to thrill in its intensity and raw emotional content.
Admission is $15, $5 for members and students.