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Louise Bourgeois, Cumul I, 1969, white marble on wood base, 20 by 50 by 48 inches. Now at SAM.
  • Louise Bourgeois, Cumul I, 1969, white marble on wood base, 20 by 50 by 48 inches. Now at SAM.

So polite, so rude.

This is one of Louise Bourgeois's great iconic creations, and it's at Seattle Art Museum now, as part of Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. (This fountain by Bourgeois at the Olympic Sculpture Park would have benefited both from more politeness and more rudeness. More sensual strangeness in general.)

Here below is a bit of writing from the Pompidou web site's introduction to Cumul I. Your eyes will thank you for clicking the links.

In Cumul I, nothing seems to stay in place and each shape is destined for perpetual change. Cumul is part of a series that makes reference to clouds, changing elements par excellence, and more precisely the round clouds known as cumulus. “They are clouds, a cloud formation. I don’t see any sexual forms,” she claims. The point of departure for these forms is the sculpture in the shape of a flaccid phallus, Sleep II of 1967.

Here the effervescence of the round white shapes seems to emerge from a veil of many folds, a Baroque drapery reminiscent of Bernini (1598-1680), the great Baroque sculptor who impressed the artist. Beyond the usual reference to breasts and male genitalia, some of these round forms seem to evoke the head of a nun whose face emerges – like that of Saint Theresa in Bernini’s sculpture in Rome (The Transverberation of Saint Theresa, 1652, Santa Maria della Vittoria) – from a veil that falls into a multitude of folds.

This same drapery is found in Femme-maison (1983), a work in white marble, once again inspired, as Marie-Laure Bernadac points out, by Bernini. Cumul I heralds the large and impressive latex installation The Destruction of the Father of 1974.