Louise Bourgeois’ hang-ups are revealed in ’Suspension’ at New York’s Cheim & Read

Installation view of 'Suspension', a showcase of all-hanging works at Cheim
Installation view of 'Suspension', a showcase of all-hanging works at Cheim & Read in New York tracing Louise Bourgeois' fascination with suspended art
(Image credit: Louise Bourgeois)

Louise Bourgeois might be best known for her otherworldly spider sculptures (opens in new tab), but a new showcase of all-hanging works at Cheim & Read in New York traces the artist's fascination with suspended art, which she has continually experimented with throughout her career. Aptly titled 'Suspension', the exhibition (opens in new tab) is the first survey of Bourgeois' hanging sculptures, featuring examples from her recurring themes - like the 1968 'Janus' series and her 1990s cloth figures.

Spanning more than 45 years of Bourgeois' career, the 25-piece show is a tribute to the artist's dynamic way of working. 'Louise liked doing forms with different materials. She had no allegiance to any material,' says her longtime chief assistant Jerry Gorovoy, who led a private tour during the opening of the show. 'Sometimes the same piece would be done in different materials and they would all have a very different feel.'

From fabric-covered torsos hung tenderly upside down to the bronze-painted 'Lair' (1962), one of the earliest pieces in the show, the sculptures share physical characteristics despite their formal differences. Even the more abstract pieces - such as 'The Quartered One' (1964-5) and 'Fée Couturière' (1963) - have anthropomorphic qualities, linking back to recurring themes in Bourgeois' work, whether they be feelings toward her father or her ideas about gender and sexuality.

By abandoning conventional plinths and allowing each work to move freely from its perch, the past Wallpaper* guest editor (W*115) bestows her sculptures with an instability that counters their density and weight. The hanging of works is also an expression of her state of mind. The artist once traced her fascination with suspension back to her childhood, when her father would hang his collection of wooden chairs off wood beams in the attic. 'It was very pure,' she once said. 'You would look up and see these armchairs hanging in very good order. The floor was bare - this is the origin of a lot of hanging pieces.

'Suspension' unveils several works for the first time: the eye-catching and macabre 'Legs' (2001); the knitted, double-headed 'Arch of Hysteria' (2004); and the spiraling 'The Couple' (2007-9), a seven-metre version of which will be installed in Vienna's Wien Mitte station in the near future. Bourgeois may no longer be with us, but her spirit, as this exhibition proves, is still very much alive.

The exhibition is the first survey of Bourgeois' hanging sculptures, featuring examples from her recurring themes

'The Quartered One' (left), 1964-1965, next to 'Untitled', 1947, a work in ink and charcoal. The exhibition is the first survey of Bourgeois' hanging sculptures, featuring examples from her recurring themes

(Image credit: Louise Bourgeois)

Untitled', 2004, 'Legs', 2001, 'Hanging Figure', 2000 and 'Cinq', 2007

Untitled', 2004, 'Legs', 2001, 'Hanging Figure', 2000 and 'Cinq', 2007. Spanning more than 45 years of Bourgeois' career, the 25-piece show is a tribute to the artist's dynamic way of working

(Image credit: Louise Bourgeois)

By abandoning conventional plinths and allowing each work to move freely from its perch, Bourgeois bestows her sculptures with an instability that counters their density and weight.

By abandoning conventional plinths and allowing each work to move freely from its perch, Bourgeois bestows her sculptures with an instability that counters their density and weight. These are 'Single I', 1996, 'Arch of Hysteria', 2004 and 'Femme', 1993

(Image credit: Louise Bourgeois)

The sculptures share physical characteristics despite their formal differences

'Untitled', 2004 and 'Lair',1986. The sculptures share physical characteristics despite their formal differences

(Image credit: Louise Bourgeois)

'Hanging Janus with Jacket', 1968

'Janus Fleuri', 1968, 'Fillette (Sweeter Version)', 1968-1999, and 'Hanging Janus with Jacket', 1968

(Image credit: Louise Bourgeois)

'Legs', 1986. Bourgeois' longtime chief assistant Jerry Gorovoy explains, 'Louise liked doing forms with different materials.

'Legs', 1986. Bourgeois' longtime chief assistant Jerry Gorovoy explains, 'Louise liked doing forms with different materials. She had no allegiance to any material'. 

(Image credit: © The Easton Foundation)

This macabre version of 'Legs', from 2001, is being displayed for the first time

This macabre version of 'Legs', from 2001, is being displayed for the first time.

(Image credit: © The Easton Foundation)

Three 'Untitled' works, the one at left from 1995, the ones in aluminium from 2004.

Three 'Untitled' works, the one at left from 1995, the ones in aluminium from 2004. The 'Untitled' drawing is from 1946

(Image credit: Louise Bourgeois)

'Untitled', 1995. © The Easton Foundation

'Untitled', 1995. 

(Image credit: © The Easton Foundation)

This is the first showing of 2007-2009 iteration of 'The Couple'.

This is the first showing of 2007-2009 iteration of 'The Couple'. 

(Image credit: © The Easton Foundation)

'Untitled', 1947, 'Fée Couturière', 1963 and 'The Quartered One', 1964-1965.

'Untitled', 1947, 'Fée Couturière', 1963 and 'The Quartered One', 1964-1965. Even these more abstract pieces have anthropomorphic qualities, linking back to recurring themes in Bourgeois' work, whether they be feelings toward her father or her ideas about gender and sexuality

(Image credit: Louise Bourgeois )

ADDRESS

Cheim & Read (opens in new tab)
547 West 25th Street
New York

VIEW GOOGLE MAPS (opens in new tab)

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.