I saw the Louise Bourgeois exhibit at the Gugg this weekend and loved, loved, loved it. I spent probably half the exhibition grinning from ear to ear. If you live near NYC, go! (It's pay-what-you will Friday nights, and it'll be up through September 28.)
I hadn't seen much of her work before seeing the show, but I knew this famous Mapplethorpe photo from my childhood - as a queer kid growing up in Cincinnati with black fingernails and a subscription to ArtNews, how could I not promptly start dreaming that a different, better world existed when such beautiful evidence arrived in my mailbox? I honestly think that this image is the first inkling I got that being sexual and being happy could and should go together. I still, even today, keep re-checking the picture, surprised at her mischievous, satisfied smile.
The piece she's holding is less plainly representational and way more ambiguous when not tucked under Ms. B's devious arm. There's all kinds of gendered sex-parts-ish stuff going flippy-floppy in her work, which is of course super awesome. There are metaphors upon physical metaphors, and they all kind of miss in a way that draws you in. I lost track of how many of the helpful white placards under the titles referenced testicles, breasts, and sometimes knees in the same sentence.
And in her more recent works - "Cells" - She encloses the work with cages and guillotines or old doors stuck together, so you get that birdcage, reliquary for a private metaphor, Joseph Cornell kind of feeling except less goofy and way bigger and you're peering through keyholes or catching glimpses through slats for a zoetrope effect. Totally, totally juicy in a way you have to see in person.
If you go, make sure you don't miss Confrontation - it's in one of the little tangents off the Guggenheim's main spiral - an installation and video of a performance piece from 1978: people dressed up in blobby latex costumes having a fashion show with the audience squashed into little white boxy chairs. It's beautiful and hilarious. Don't be afraid to laugh.