Mumbling Beauty is an intimate, uncompromising portrait of Louise Bourgeois in the final years of her life. From 2008 to 2010 the artist allowed Alex Van Gelder into her private world – her studio and home – and indulged his lens while she worked, rested and waited, mischievous or lost in thought, weary of decrepitude, raging, defiant to the end. She fills the camera with her presence.
As reflected in Van Gelder’s portraits, the art of Louise Bourgeois was confessional, psychological, fraught with ferocious and delicate passions. One of the last surviving artists of the high modernist era, her early work anticipated what would come in the late modern and postmodern eras, including minimalism, installation art and body art. However, she did not achieve fame until after her seventieth year, discovered and heralded by a new generation. Once discovered, her reputation grew in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s with an array of major international exhibitions and a burst of creativity. Throughout, her art is confessional, psychological and fraught with fear, anger and sexuality.
Van Gelder’s collaborative portrait is in many ways a message from Bourgeois to the world, her chosen epitaph. Despite the frailty and decrepitude of her near one hundred years, she defies her vulnerability. Mumbling Beauty is a profound portrait of an artist of the utmost consequence and a piercing study of extreme age.
Alex Van Gelder lives and works in Paris. He has published many books, including Life & Afterlife in Benin. He exhibited a portfolio of photographs of Louise Bourgeois’s hands in 2011. A catalogue entitled Alex Van Gelder – Louise Bourgeois ARMED FORCES accompanied the exhibition. Hans Ulrich Obrist is an art historiam curator and critic and the Co-Director of the Serpentine Gallery, London. He first met Louise Bourgeois as a teenager.