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Xavier Hufkens


Louise Bourgeois

“Cell XXVI” is one of several freestanding installations by Louise Bourgeois. The word “cell” can refer to the most basic building block of a living organism or a prison. Bourgeois’ Cells combine aspects of both definitions, pairing the organic with the correctional. Combining a large vanity mirror, two transparent white skirts and a spiral woman of stuffed, sewn fabric and surrounded with steel fencing, she employs domestic and institutional elements to tell a story. The tall swivel mirror of polished metal with its reflective surface creates an intense space for contemplation and reflection. The female figure, hanging from the ceiling and reflected in the mirror, twirls in a slow, ungrounded dance. To Bourgeois the spiral also stands for the “study of the self” and the fear of losing control. In contrast with the tension expressed by the spiral woman, the two transparent white cloth fragments hang motionless in complete purity.

Allusive and open to interpretation, Bourgeois’ “Cells” are places for uneasy contemplation. The steel enclosing each work protects the objects inside, but also restricts them from ever escaping. Like a prison, the caged walls enforce a rigid form of solitude while offering only partial views of the outside world. As carnal as it is symbolic, Bourgeois explains that “Cells” represent different types of pain: the physical, the emotional and the psychological, the mental and the intellectual. When does the emotional become the physical? When does the physical become the emotional? It’s a never-ending circle. Pain can begin at any point and turn in either direction.

Installation views