ANIMAL (AUCTION) HOUSE

Spiders and lizards and auctions -- oh my!

With Louise Bourgeois'  delicately spindly "Spider III" facing off against Christopher Wool's bold and aggressive "Untitled (Chameleon)," Sotheby's is starting to a feel a bit like a zoo. The auction house has taken on a new initiative with its Mega Impressionist and Contemporary Spring Auctions this year: scheduling them both in the same week, Contemporary and Impressionist works have been hung side by side in the galleries, asking the viewers to "Imagine the Conversation." Although both of these works are sold in the Contemporary Evening Sale (Thursday, May 11th), I  can imagine a truly great conversation between the two -- and between their two makers.

Wool's Black Book series from the 1990's is a both a bold statement of self and an ironic question for the viewer. As one critic noted, "Wool’s litany of nine-letter nouns describing social types compressed to a single characteristic may be seen as a series of self-portraits, or they may refer to the paintings themselves; or perhaps they mirror their viewer’s state of mind. Whatever the case may be, they are loud attempts at definition, even as the self in question is irretrievable for being subsumed under clichés." From that series, there is only one animal noted, making "Chameleon" all the more unique. Is the Wool the chameleon, morphing his practice to fit his needs and present sense of self? Are we the chameleons, changed by the work in front of us? Or is the work the chameleon -- different in every setting, adaptable, inconstant?

 

In contrast. the Spider was a constant source of inspiration, fear, drive, and defintion for Louise Bourgeois. It recurs repeatedly in her sculptures. prints, installations, and drawings, ranging in size from a spider you can hold in your hand to the enormous, craggy shape that looms above the Tate Modern. Bourgeois once described an elaborate dream narrative in which, as she drew and sculpted in the abandoned home of her subconscious, the spider wove beside her.  Bourgeois recalled, “An eight-legged shadow will loom over me. I wouldn’t be afraid though. ...The spider would… begin to sew, for me and forever, a huge web to tuck me in. She’d seal all the openings, block all the doors, repair all the torn fabric, line the stairs with downy threads to soften potential falls, fill all the empty corners. ...She’d stay here forever, by my side…” The Spider is a maternal being for the sculptor, protecting and shielding her with a web of intricate fibers; simultaneously, the Spider is the lurking Other, the beastial, wild edge of creativity, that lurks, spinning her web, in the depths of Bourgeois mind. 

 

Imagine the conversation between Wool and Bourgeois, Chameleon and Spider, shifting and spinning their art around themselves and the viewer -- 

 

 

Kelsey Leonard