The article I was given to read a couple of weeks ago (I have since discovered, from Hall Foster, R. K., Bois, D. J. A-Y., Buchloh, H. D, (2012) Art Since 1900 Thames & Hudson, London) was about the year 1910. One of the other students on my course was given the year 1966.
The article about the year 1966 centred on an exhibition in New York showing the work of three women artists: Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, Eva Hesse. The exhibition was called ‘Eccentric Abstraction’.
Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was born in Paris to middle-class parents. She started off studying maths but switched to art. She is known for being one of the first artists to exhibit at the New Tate Modern in the Turbine Hall (in 2000). The work she showed at the exhibition was called Maman, and it was essentially a giant metal spider. Maman is French for ‘mummy’.
Bourgeois was known for deriving inspiration from personal experiences, particularly from her childhood. Her father was a philanderer and abusive. She started off in the art world by identifying herself as a surrealist. She married a US art historian, Robert Goldwater, and moved to New York. During the 1960s she developed her practice using different media such as plastic, latex, and fabric.
Another of her creations is Fillete. In this she was exploring the attractive and the repellent, vulnerability and aggression and hate and love. She was interested in ambivalent emotional responses to stimuli.
In the 1970s, she began to explore deeper into her traumatic past. The Destruction of the Father, created in 1974, also examines ambiguity between two contrasting sensations: comfort and fear. This was the first self-enclosed environment or installation Bourgeois created. The bulbous abscesses are encased in a box and dramatised by a red light, giving a very claustrophobic effect.
Kusama‘s work challenges patriarchy in a different way to Bourgeois’s. She mocks masculinity. She was born in 1929 and also came from an abusive family and had a philandering father. She grew up despising the opposite sex.
The example above, Firelies on the Water, with its carefully constructed environment of lights, mirrors, and water, creates a space in which individual viewers are invited to transcend their sense of self.
Her work lies somewhere between minimalism and pop art. To Kusama, dots represent her life: ‘a single particle among billions’, as she writes in her autobiography.
In 1972 she returned to Japan. She suffers from schizophrenia.
Hesse (1936-70) was an American sculptor and artist. She is another artist who referenced her past in her work. She found inspiration in her Jewish heritage, Nazi persecution, and her mother’s suicide. Her work is about the trials of womanhood and childbirth.
All three artists were brought together as ‘eccentric abstract’ artists. Their work is almost outsider, yet they sit within the art establishment. The work is very introspective, autobiographical and personal. It is designed to shock (often to create an abject response) but also to attract and fascinate. They all seem to be dealing with some level of post-traumatic symptoms from their childhood.
Nayeri, F. ‘Man-Hating Artist Kusama Covers Tate in Dots: Interview’ (14 Feb 2012) Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-14/man-hating-artist-kusama-covers-tate-modern-in-dots-interview.html [last accessed 30 April 2013]