press release

Double Sexus brings together for the first time works by two fascinating and influential artists known for their provocative explorations of the human form.

Hans Bellmer (1902–1975), a German sculptor and photographer, and Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), a French-born American sculptor who received the Wexner Prize in 1999, never actually met. Yet their sexually charged art evidences striking parallels: bodies fragmented into pieces and cobbled back together; bulging, bulbous forms; allusions to both fantasies and fears. Deeply affected by childhood experiences, particularly their complicated relationships with their fathers, each used art to negotiate personal interactions and connections to the world around them.

The exhibition, which was previously seen in Berlin, Germany, and The Hague, Netherlands, makes its U.S. debut at the Wexner Center. Its title comes from Sexus, a semi-autobiographical novel by Henry Miller, and its design strategically juxtaposes works by each artist in thematic sections. As you move through this layout, you will see sculptures and drawings by Bourgeois and sculptures, drawings, photographs, and a print by Bellmer.

"Dolls and Prostheses," the first of the five central sections, collects examples of the dismembered doll-like forms that frequently appear in each artist's oeuvre. "Doubling and Pairing" looks at the artists' use of androgynous and hermaphroditic forms to explore gender distinctions. The ideas of surrealism influenced both Bellmer and Bourgeois, and the section titled "Form/Informe" surveys their applications of the surrealist principle that the significance of an object comes from its defiance of logic or expectation. "Diana of Ephesus" takes its title from the name given to a version of the Greco-Roman goddess Artemis/Diana depicted with multiple breasts as a fertility symbol. This section includes Bellmer's images of the fertility goddess and works in which Bourgeois similarly evokes the essence of sexuality.

The last of the five main sections, "Histoire de l'oeil" (History of the Eye), is named for a famed erotic novella with that title written in 1928 by Georges Bataille (1897–1962). Bataille, a French writer whose ideas about the power of transgression have been very influential in philosophic and cultural circles, used the relationship between sexual acts and the penetrating gaze as a central metaphor in his surreal, violent story of obsessive love. The exhibition brings together a series of drawings, prints, and photographs made by Bellmer in 1946 and 1947 as illustrations for a new edition of the novella with very late works by Bourgeois (from 2009, the year before her death) that also explore the metaphoric connections of penetration in sex and sight.

Double Sexus was organized by Udo Kittelmann, Silke Krohn, and Kyllikki Zacharias at the Nationalgalerie, Berlin in cooperation with the Wexner Center.

only in german

Hans Bellmer, Louise Bourgeois
Double Sexus
Kuratoren: Udo Kittelmann, Silke Krohn, Kyllikki Zacharias

24.04.10 - 15.08.10 Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg, Berlin
26.03.11 - 31.07.11 Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus / Ohio