Two Art Books: Louise Bourgeois and Fischli/Weiss

Presented by Elizabeth Myers Art Museum, St. John's College

Dates: May 4, 2024 - September 8, 2024
Cost: Free


Note: On view in the Nutt Room in the Greenfield Library on the St. John’s College campus in Annapolis. (The exhibition is organized by the Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Art Museum.”)

This exhibition presents two small, zine-like art books, each featuring a single body of work. Though different in temperament and focus, both ask fundamental questions about the meaning of life and our place in the social or natural order.

Les Fleurs (The Flowers) includes reproductions of 28 gouache paintings created by the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois in 2009–10, a year before she died at the age of 97. Flowers typically symbolize growth, fecundity, and rejuvenation. Here the flat, silhouetted images–laid out in a regulated sequence–call to mind leafy specimens pressed under glass gathered for future study. In structure, they also evoke human anatomy; in hue and translucency, the paint looks like fresh blood. Bourgeois herself has verbally made this connection between the natural world and the human body, saying, “It seems rather evident to me that our own body is a figuration that appears in Mother Earth.”

Ordnung and Reinlichkeit (Order and Cleanliness) by the Swiss artist duo Fischli/Weiss, contains 15 black and white drawings by the artists from 1981. (The zine on view here is from 2016.) As if extracted from a corporate report–or a textbook, each drawing is labeled as a figure (fig. no. 1, etc.), supporting a text that is nowhere to be found. The diagrams tackle such topics as the will to power, love, anxiety, and the constitution of an organism. One of them intertwines big timeless questions (e.g., “Is the galaxy still growing?”) with small ones (“Is the bus still running?”). The tone seems earnest, but the small scale and humorous insertions suggest otherwise. Fischli/Weiss are poking fun at the high expectations we have of them.

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