Louise Bourgeois Spider 1997

Louise Bourgeois Spider 1997
Steel, tapestry, wood, glass, fabric, rubber, silver, gold and bone 
Private collection, courtesy Cheim & Read, New York © Louise Bourgeois Photo: Rafael Lobato

In 1980 Bourgeois took on a large, separate studio for the first time. The additional space, in what was an abandoned garment factory in Brooklyn, allowed her to work on a much larger scale. She could also experiment further with different materials, incorporating domestic objects, clothing and other elements into a series of ‘cells’.

The cells are perhaps Bourgeois’s most autobiographical works, acting as tangible manifestations of psychic space. They suggest rooms which enforce solitary confinement, such as prison cells, as well as rooms which provide private thinking space, such as bedrooms or monks’ cells.

The spider is a recurring theme in the works Bourgeois made in the 1990s. Both predator and protector, a sinister threat and an industrious repairer, the spider is an eloquent representation of the mother. Maman 1999, one of this series of large scale spiders, is on show on the landscape outside Tate Modern, between the Gallery and the river. The spinning and weaving of the spider’s web links to Bourgeois’s own mother, who worked in the family’s tapestry restoration business. It also links to the artist’s most recent sculptures, made from scraps of fabric stitched together, which you will see in the next room.