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Louise Bourgeois: What is the Shape of This Problem? / USC Fisher Museum of Art


from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation

September 6 - December 3, 2022

USC Fisher Museum of Art, Los Angeles

This traveling exhibition explores the prolific drawing and writing practice of Louise Bourgeois with more that 100 works from the 1940s to the early 2000s.


USC Fisher Museum of Art is proud to announce the presentation of Louise Bourgeois: What is the Shape of This Problem?, from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation this fall.


The exhibition presents 145 works with a focus on prints, textiles, and a series of eight holograms, ranging in date from the 1940s to the early 2000s. These works build on the raw emotional terrain of Bourgeois’ practice, and explore feelings of isolation, anger, and fear through the recurring depiction of the body, childhood, family, architecture, and the passage of time.


“What is the shape of this problem?” is a question presented on the opening page of a series of nine letterpress diptychs of image and text produced by Bourgeois in 1999 and in many ways, it is a poignant frame for this exhibition. This question, like much of the text used in her prints, positions these works within Bourgeois’ multi- layered practice of identifying and bravely exploring her personal history, her creative process, and her mental health. These words boldly amplify the parallel between suffering and her art making, suggesting that abstract emotions can, and should, be given form. It is this acknowledgment that provides the balance of her creative practice and life, an entwined dependence expressing Bourgeois’ emotional and physical intelligence.


Bourgeois described her relationship to making art as one of survival and dependence. She openly acknowledged her vulnerability because it gave her purpose, and the work born from that purpose gave form to her kind of suffering. In relation to this condition of living and working Bourgeois aptly coined the now famous phrase:


“Art is a guarantee of sanity.”


Ever committed to innovation and experimentation, Bourgeois seized the opportunity to work with cutting edge fine art printer Mixografia. With their roots in the Mexico City art scene, L.A.-based Mixografia made waves by expanding the possibilities of printmaking by incorporating dimensionality and relief into a traditionally two-dimensional medium, producing prints using handmade cotton paper and specialized printing equipment designed and built in-house. For this exhibition, the USC Fisher Museum of Art is creating a gallery guide with Mixografia.


Louise Bourgeois: What is the Shape of This Problem? is organized by the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation and the Esker Foundation. It is curated by Naomi Potter, Director/Chief Curator, Esker Foundation, Calgary, Canada. The exhibition was first presented at the Esker Foundation where it ran from January 23, 2021, through June 27, 2021, followed by a presentation at Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University from August 31, 2021, through December 2, 2021.

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