In 1964, after a period of relative seclusion, Louise had her first solo show in eleven years at the Stable Gallery, New York. Her new work, made in plaster and latex, revealed a turn toward more organic processes, and introduced the “Lair” as a unique sculptural form.
In 1966, Lucy Lippard included Bourgeois’s work in the exhibition Eccentric Abstraction, together with a younger generation of artists like Eva Hesse and Bruce Nauman.
In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Bourgeois frequently traveled to Italy to work in marble and bronze.
Throughout the 1970's Louise took part in demonstrations, benefits, panels, and exhibitions connected with Feminism. She is often described as a "reluctant feminist." It wasn't that she wasn't a feminist, it was that she wasn't only a feminist and she didn't want to be defined by it. She said “Some of my works are, or try to be feminist, and others are not feminist.”
In the 60's she refused to push herself or market her work. She said "It was just that I had a feeling that the art scene belonged to the mean, and that I was in some way invading their domain. Therefore the work was hidden away."
But in the 70's with the rise of feminism, she found her audience. In 1973 her husband Robert Goldwater died. Louise was 62 years old and her career was finally taking off. In 1976 Femme Maison was featured on the cover of Lucy Lippard's book From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women's Art and became an icon of the feminist art movement.
“Even though what I do does enter the market, it doesn’t interest me. I am exclusively concerned with the formal qualities of my work…. The fact that the market was not interested in my work because I was a woman was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to work totally undisturbed.”
All that work she created and tucked away began to make it's way out to the world in the 1980's.
Louise had her first retrospective in 1982 at MoMA, which was the first given to a female artist at that institution. In an interview with Artforum, timed to coincide with the opening of her retrospective, she published an illustrated autobiographical text speaking out for the first time about her childhood--her father's affair and the impact that relationship had her and her family.
In 1980 she acquired her Brooklyn studio and the space allowed her to work larger. She began to create large scale installations. She had another retrospective in 1989 at Documenta 9 in Kassel, Germany. In the 80's along with the retrospectives she had many solo exhibitions. She also often traveled to Italy to work in marble.
Bourgeois was talking about Jerry Gorovoy, whom she met in 1980, and who became her assistant for thirty years. But he played many other roles as well: as her organizer, editor, manager, curator, agent, coordinator, and path-clearer. The acclaimed critic Robert Storr has even named Gorovoy Bourgeois´ `muse´, and a person without whom much of her later work would have been unimaginable.
I enjoyed reading about Louise in Jerry's words... here's how they met:
"...in March 1980, a tiny 68-year-old woman with intense blue eyes and a strong French accent came into the SoHo gallery where I was working and started screaming that she didn't like the way I had installed her sculpture – one of 10 abstract sculptures in a group show that was my curatorial debut – and wanted it removed. We went for a cup of coffee to try to work things out. On the way back she slipped and fell on the cobblestone street and I realised how vulnerable she was. Years later, I understood that this woman who had behaved so aggressively towards me was simply afraid of showing her work."
In the interview at the top, Jerry said:
"... the art world is a little bit of a game and for her to have an exhibition was very difficult, so she didnt show that much. She would have a show and then she would cancel it, because shed get too nervous. It was sort of the pact we made: 'You make the work, and I do everything else.'"
A lot of us could benefit from a Jerry in our lives.