American, born France, 1911-2010
Often pulling from highly autobiographical roots, Louise Bourgeois’s work is emotionally and sexually charged. During her formative years, the artist’s father overturned their family’s structure with his affairs, sharing a home with both her mother and his young mistress, who was also Bourgeois’s live-in English tutor. A fundamental part of her practice revolved around memory, as she dealt with this and the other traumas of her past through cathartic artmaking experiences. Couple II depicts two anthropomorphic beings who appear human-like from some angles and abstract from others. They are engaged in an intimate embrace. For Bourgeois, this work is a re-creation of a child’s confusion about adult love and sexuality. She has said, “The couple copulating is seen through the eyes of a young girl. Are they fighting? Are they enjoying themselves? Is one killing the other? It refers to the age when I could not understand what they were doing, what they saw in each other, and what they were pursuing in each other. It is the question of an arrested traumatic experience.” Bourgeois added a prosthetic brace to the female figure, implying infirmity. Yet, its significance extends beyond the physical. The brace can also be read as a metaphor for emotional barriers, suggesting a sense of helplessness the figure may feel in the relationship.