Pillar – A Gateway Figure?On a Work by Louise Bourgeois and her Relationship with Art Historyby Martin Sundberg
Louise Bourgeois very consciously opened her oeuvre to biographical interpretation through comments in interviews, through her writings and, not least, through her art. It would appear to be an open and shut case—with everything neatly laid out for art historians. Her works and her career have been the object of interpretation in a multiplicity of texts. But is it really that simple? Taking a single work, Pillar (1949), as a starting point, my aim in this article is to illuminate Bourgeois’ relationship with the writing of art history. Rather than interpret the work by itself, this approach will make it possible to both reveal and explore the ways in which the artist changed, adapted and developed her strategies in order to influence the interpretation of individual works and of her oeuvre as a whole. I show Bourgeois was well aware of her influence and that she very deliberately used the rules of the game to draw attention to recurring histories, thereby also dissuading other interpretations. Her construction of the oeuvre as a linear story, work leading to work without digressions, is hard to understand since the control she gained also implies limitations.
Martin Sundberg, PhD in Art History, currently holds a post doctoral position at the eikones NCCR Iconic Criticism project, University of Basel, Switzerland. He has previously worked as a researcher at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.