Exhibited around the world, from Tate Modern to the Guggenheim, Bilbao and the National Gallery, Washington D.C., Louise Bourgeois’ spiders have found appreciation among critics and the public alike. Executed in 1996, this mammoth bronze arachnid takes the form of one of the artist's most enduring and iconic motifs.
Stretching upward over ten feet, Spider’s exaggerated legs recall the arches of Gothic cathedrals. Its yarn-like body suspended in air, Spider’s vast form becomes an airy mass. A source of extreme fear for some, the giant spider cannot help but conjure up cult American science-fiction movies of the late 1950s or early 1990s with the prospect of an eight-legged invasion. For Bourgeois however, the spider takes on a much gentler role, acting as the embodiment of her own turbulent autobiography.
When Bourgeois, at the age of 83, again adopted the spider motif that she had first explored in 1947, her childhood was at the centre of her art: ‘My mother was my best friend. She was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and useful as a spider.’ What Bourgeois creates with this work, however, is a sculpture of elegant threat, exquisite poise. As Bourgeois said, ‘the spider is a cornered animal, she finds security in the corner. But she, in fact, is not cornered, but she tries to corner others. Everything is balanced. A long time ago I also associated the spider with the hooker. The prostitute and my mother, they were victims of their physical frailty. This is the connection. They were victims of their tiny size.’