The New Orleans Museum of Art already owns a monumental Spider by famed sculptor Louis Bourgeois. Now, starting September 9, the museum will also present “Louise Bourgeois: Paintings,” the first exhibition of 40 early paintings, sculptures, and photos that aims to give her practice unprecedented context.
The museum partnered with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to bring the show to New Orleans, a city that held particular significance for the artist.
“Although Bourgeois never visited New Orleans until much later in life, the city loomed large in her consciousness,” NOMA curator Russel Lord, who oversaw the show’s installation, told Artnet News. “Throughout the exhibition there are subtle references to her interest in the mythic status of the city and surrounding area.”
“These early paintings reveal how the forms and ideas that she explored later in sculpture were nascent in this formative era,” Lord continued.
Most of these paintings date from 1938 through 1949—the period between Bourgeois’s arrival in New York City and her departure into new mediums—and trace themes that inspired Bourgeois across eras.
“The thorough inclusion of figures and symbols referencing her own biography in these paintings demonstrates that for her, art, be it painting or sculpture, was always first and foremost a gesture of personal expression,” Lord said.
Pieces like the show’s earliest work, titled The Runaway Girl, “can be understood as self-portraits and suggest the artist’s feelings of displacement upon her relocation to the United States just before World War II,” according to a statement from the museum. Others, such as Bourgeois’s Femme Maison series, display early forays into her own nuanced feminism.
Take a sneak peek at works from the show below.