The title 32 (painted 1947) references the year Louise Bourgeois’s mother, Josephine, passed away after a long illness. As a teenager, Bourgeois often served as her mothers nurse, and the two were very close. The death precipitated the first of the artist’s two suicide attempts and catalyzed recurring periods of profound depression. In 1959, during an intense period of analysis, she wrote: “after she was dead I said that at least she would not suffer anymore… I put myself in her bed and forbade people to come in her room.” At the center of this paining, an ornate funerary bier is situated as if onstage and illuminated by a spotlight. The curved banister at lower left and window at center right suggest an interior, but the sense of defined space collapses under the blood-red striations arching across the background of the picture plane. An earlier stages of the painting, the enigmatic form at left was a more realistically rendered self-portrait.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
Born in the United States, Isamu Noguchi (1904 – 1988) lived in Japan until he was 13 years old, and was deeply affected by Japanese art and culture. In 1930, the artist returned to Japan to study its sculptural traditions and ceramics
Miss Expanding Universe (1932) was the first sculpture Noguchi made upon his return to the United States in 1932. In this work, he combined machine-age streamlining with characteristics of ancient Japanese funerary sculpture (haniwa).
Later that same year, the artist transformed this flowing form into a sacklike costume for the pioneering dancer and choreographer Ruth Page and her ballet, Expanding Universe.
This linoleum cut print, Speed Trial (1932), was inspired by Bluebird, a race car that reached a velocity of 246 miles per hour at Daytona Beach, Florida in 1932, breaking the land-speed record. Artist Cyril Edward Power (1872 – 1951) used rhythmic, repetitive curves to conjure the rushing motion of the aerodynamic vehicle. He printed the image using three layers of color: light blue, dark blue, and green. He stipulated that the dark blue should be printed “dark on bonnet, paling to tail” — a graded passage that emphasizes the engine, at the front of the car, as the source of its power.
This curious personage, with four small spindly legs supporting a visage of stunned eyes and a quizzical smirk, or handlebar moustache, offers a satiric take on the work’s grim title. Inspired by a Zuni war god sculpture that Klee saw at an ethnological museum, Mask of Fear(1932) was painted on the eve of Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany.
The two sets of legs suggest that two figures might be supporting, and concealed by, this monumental carnival-style mask, an arrangement that might understood in light of Klee’s assertion that “the mask represents art, and behind it hides man.”
Peter Blume’s Light of the World (1932) delivers an allegorical critique of modernity and the unquestioning embrace of progress. The four figures are transfixed by the bright light of a fantastical lamp whose brilliance contrasts with the darkening sky overtaking a cathedral based on Notre Dame in Paris – a juxtaposition implying that the faith once reflected in Gothic architecture’s soaring spires had been transferred to modern technologies. Blume identified the mustachioed figure as a ventriloquist’s dummy – his personal symbol for the voiceless and impotent American worker – another hint of the societal pressures that keep us in thrall to technological progress, often against our best interests.
Photographed in the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.