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Friendly Evidence

Untitled (1950)

Portrait of C.Y.

Untitled (1950-54)

Louise Bourgeois
Friendly Evidence, 1949
Painted wood
179.0 x 15.5 x 6.2 cm
Purchased 1997
Louise Bourgeois, Friendly Evidence, 1949 © VAGA (New York) / SODART (Montréal) 2003

Untitled, 1950
Painted wood
167.3 x 11.5 x 13.0
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, 1950 © VAGA (New York) / SODART (Montréal) 2003

Portrait of C.Y., 1947-49
Painted wood, nails
9.5 x 8.3 x 12.5 cm
Louise Bourgeois, Portrait of C.Y., 1947-1949 © VAGA (New York) / SODART (Montréal) 2003

Untitled, 1950-54
Painted wood, stainless steel
168.5 x 9.2 (diam.) cm
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, 1950-1954 © VAGA (New York) / SODART (Montréal) 2003

Between 1947 and 1954 Louise Bourgeois made over 30 slender, vertical figures, roughly carved in wood and painted in white, black, or Venetian red. These sculptures, which she called Personages, are starkly simplified evocations of people she knew, especially those she felt she had abandoned when she left France for the United States before the Second World War. Their totemic aspect is typical of her work of this period. Though superficially reminiscent of African or Oceanic fetishes, they are drawn from strictly personal sources. The Personages evoke the emotional substratum of her relations with others both present and far away. Set in groups or placed singly in a space, they suggest a relationship with psychological as well as physical dimensions. Bourgeois later observed of them that, "even though the shapes are abstract, they represent people. They are delicate as relationships are delicate. They look at each other and they lean on each other."

Four decades after they were made, the sculptures acquired by the Gallery remain as aesthetically compelling as ever: formally austere yet expressive. Bourgeois herself, after years of neglect, is now recognized as one of the major figures in 20th-century art. Her interest in finding forms that express the uncertainty and vulnerability of human relationships has made her a beacon for a younger generation of artists, yet she remains a link with earlier Modernist currents as well, especially Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. With this unique group of four early sculptures, the Gallery now has one of the most important collections of Bourgeois's work in Canada.