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Spider

30/11/2019 – Fevereiro 2020


Spider (1996), by Louise Bourgeois, is one of the most emblematic works of international art at the turn of the 21st century. It bears witness to the symbolic power that Bourgeois confers on her objects. Since the 1940s, spiders have been present in Louise Bourgeois’s drawing in a long sense-condensation process – they appear in drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures. “I am a science person. I believe in psychoanalysis, in philosophy. For me, what counts is the tangible aspect”

This bronze spider embodies the same logic of the embroidered pieces, the use of fragments of tapestry or sewn clothes, since the dressmaker of the house would talk to her about sexuality based on men’s and women’s clothes. The Bourgeois family had dedicated themselves to tapestry for centuries. Her father had an antique shop and offered services of restoration and cleaning of historical tapestries, and little Louise helped with these chores. The spiders legs end in needle-like form to indicate that they are weavers, like Bourgeois’ family.

A spider web is a mesh, which has to be cared for all the time. In modern art, the idea of a regular geometric mesh symbolized the control of the spatial logic. However, for Louise Bourgeois, spiders are a criticism of male dominance in modern times, as they weave and repair their web daily; yet, in some species, female spiders devour males after copulation. Therefore, the web-mesh breaks the power system of art because it imposes a space reserved for the feminine and the maternal components. Bourgeois spiders are female because they represent the personal qualities of her mother, who was fragile and strong at the same time. The area under the thorax-abdomen is bulky. It is the place of protection and holds the eggs. However, owing to its size, this Spider is also capable of housing people. A spider is a provider. It hunts to feed its offspring, its sharp legs mean protection. For Louise, the spiders protect mankind itself, because their webs capture unwanted insects. A feminist militant in her own way, Louise Bourgeois has always pushed women into taking a political stand while working for their empowerment. An example is the affirmative action of this Spider. The power of each subject comes from the recognition of one’s strengths and the belief that it is necessary to always fight for one’s principles.

Paulo Herkenhoff