From its advent in 1947, holography has been a field largely attributed to the sciences. Only in 1968, after the first holographic arts exhibition at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, was it conceived as a potential artistic medium. For artists like Louise Bourgeois, however, whose work was largely influenced by surrealism and imbued with psychosexual and gender-experimental nuances, it seemed a natural transition and an intriguing addition to an already revolutionary oeuvre.
Beyond her well-known sculptural works, Bourgeois was at the forefront of installation art. Her first installation piece, The Destruction of the Father (1974), toyed with themes central to her traumatic childhood at the hands of her father’s dominant presence and open infidelities. A dinner table set within a cavernous, red, womb-like room, it consumed the viewer in its visceral ode to his violence against her and her mother, and the clash of genders. It is a similarly eerie, constricted experience fabricated within her set of eight glowing, red holographic plates that is currently on display in the exhibition, Louise Bourgeois: Holograms.
In 1997, Bourgeois was approached by C-Project, New York City’s first holography studio, to collaborate on an innovative set of works. She was 87 at the time and her art was dominated by spiders, which she said symbolized her mother. Just a year later, Maman was unveiled—the 30' tall spider sculpture remains one of her most iconic works today. Her series of holographic plates, however, interrupts this new artistic exploration in order to revisit past themes of childhood trauma and psychosexual obsessions, while also building upon them with the medium’s unique ability to incite horror and reveal the grotesque in the perfunctory. The plates evoke the atmosphere of a sanitarium in Victorian times, with an almost quaint antiquity that is at once sterile and disturbing.
“Louise wanted the color red,” Jerry Gorovoy, curator of the exhibition and Bourgeois’ longtime assistant, tells The Creators Project, “as it symbolized within her oeuvre the feeling of rage, jealousy, intensity, and sexuality.” Beyond these particular evocations, Gorovoy sites the series as suggestive of “isolation, loneliness, self-confrontation, and coupling.” He elaborates on its significance as yet another dimension of her installation works, stating, “Louise’s work has always oscillated between real space, the experiential and the psychological space. These pieces also relate to her preoccupation with the figure within an architectural setting.”
Each holographic plate lends itself to incredible detail and is a one-to-one reproduction so that her miniature dioramas are experienced with the same precision and detail Bourgeois intended, from the threads on the fraying chair to the textured decay of the severed limbs layered atop a steel bed frame. The exhibition offers viewers a glimpse at an unlikely medium and welcome addition that enhances Bourgeois’ central artistic themes and prolific contributions to modern art.
Louise Bourgeois: Holograms is on display at Cheim & Read through February 11th.