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Poetic License

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"The look is much more important than the word. The look is always true, whereas words can be a string of lies."

That's one of my favorite lines from Chere Louise, the captivating portrait of artist Louise Bourgeois by filmmaker Brigitte Cornand that will screen at REDCAT on Monday night.

It is the opening segment of the 50-minute film, and Bourgeois sits at a small table, with a mirror. She will go on to speak about the differences between men and women, but her comments about looking versus speaking resonate with her sculptures, which center on the experience of being among them, with the relationship of space and time, rather than on analysis. A few other favorite lines:

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"Geometry is eternal; it never fails you."

Here, Bourgeois, who was born in Paris in 1911, talks about the solidity of geometry, which she studied at the Sorbonne as a teenager. Geometry forms the foundation of her sculptural work, and offers a kind of security or "emotional backup" for the artist.

When asked why she chose to be an artist, Bourgeois says,

"I couldn't handle the affective demands that family life places upon you. It was a way to fight back. A means to survive, to do what one has to do."

Asked if it's true that her work is sexual, Bourgeois replies:

"It's true and not true; it depends on who says it."

Bourgeois also talks about her unconventional family structure, and the fascinating techniques used by her mother to quell her father's anger. And in talking about her own specific geometry, Bourgeois remarks:

"It's a feminine geometry with which we take license, poetic license."

This forms the center of the portrait: Bourgeois takes poetic license not just with her work, but with life itself, and this is what makes Cornand's film so wonderful. MOCA's retrospective exhibition of work by Louise Bourgeois closes January 25. See the film, then visit the show with a much clearer understanding of Bourgeois and her work.

the details
Chere Louise
In person: Brigitte Cornand
Monday, Jan. 12, 8:30 p.m.
REDCAT
corner of W. 2nd St. and Hope St.
213-237-2800

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