Prints from 1947 to 1992 by Bourgeois are on view in a don’t-miss show at the Barbara Krakow Gallery. As if to underscore Bourgeois’ long professional isolation, many works are dated 1947-’90. This four-decade span stems from Bourgeois’ inability to find a publisher when the plates were made in the ’40s, so many were not actually printed until the ’90s.
Bourgeois’ images from that period are cryptic and disturbing, with allusions to loneliness and sexual vulnerability. Many refer obliquely to the artist’s notoriously unhappy childhood. In the nine etching portfolio “Quarantania” a child’s tears splash into an overflowing bowl. In the large print “Sainte Sebastienne” a headless female figure with exaggerated breasts and belly is pierced by martyr’s arrows. That series also contains a vintage Bourgeois image of massed pendulous forms on a stalk, an abstract synthesis of male and female forms.
But perhaps the classic Bourgeois image is the etching “Femme Maison,” in which the upper half of a woman’s body is a schematic house with two arms and no head. Created in 1940, the image suggests female identity subsumed in a prison of domesticity.
The show also includes the recent sardonic “The Puritan,” one of five hand-printed versions of an eight-engraving illustrated poem, and floral images illustrating the bound book of Arthur Miller’s “Homely Girl, A Life.” In the book version, which is available at the gallery, Bourgeois contributes enlarged medical photographs of diseased eyes – grotesque, nightmarish visions that suggest the pain this artist associates with sight and insight.