Now, Now, Louison (Paperback)
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Financial Times Book of the Year
The extraordinary artist, the spider woman, the intellectual, the rebel, the sly enchantress, and the “good girl” sing together in this exuberant, lithe text beautifully translated by Cole Swensen.
This brilliant portrait of the renowned artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) shows a woman who was devoted to her art and whose life was also that of her century. The art world’s grande dame and its shameless old lady, spinning personal history into works of profound strangeness, speaks with her characteristic insolence and wit, through a most discreet, masterful writer. From her childhood in France to her exile and adult life in America, to her death, this phosphorescent novella describes Bourgeois’s inner life as only one artist regarding another can.
Included as an afterword is Frémon’s essay about his own “portrait writing” and how he came to know and work with Louise Bourgeois.
About the Author
JEAN FRÉMON is a renowned French gallerist and writer and has written art-historical works on artists including Robert Ryman, Antoni Tapies, and Robert Walser. He worked with Louise Bourgeois on her first European exhibition in 1985 at the Galerie Lelong, and on the last exhibition she organized herself, at the Maison de Balzac.
A Guggenheim fellow and professor at Brown University, COLE SWENSEN is the author of more than ten poetry collections and many translations of works from the French.
Taking as its lead both Bourgeois’s voice and creative practice, this is a book that eschews excessive biographical detail to convey something closer to life, 'a kind of portrait' captured through the combined artistry of writer and translator.
— Brigette Manion
Poet and curator Frémon gives voice to one of the outstanding artists of the 20th century, Louise Bourgeois, in a written portrait that is as tender as it is catty and cantankerous. Strands of memory unfurl—from Bourgeois’ childhood in France to her self-imposed exile in the US—alongside her thoughts on beauty and the purpose of art.
With Now, Now, Louison, Jean Frémon delivers a special pleasure — he invites us into Louise Bourgeois' head as she creates. In so doing, Frémon opens up our understanding of both the artist and her art.
The first to commission Bourgeois’ work, for a European exhibition in 1985, writer and gallerist Jean Frémon meditates on the spirit of the iconoclastic artist, best known for her oversized sculptures of spiders, rather than presenting a straight biography.
Frémon’s style is poetic and often poignant. There’s a rhythm and internal logic to the flow of the book that’s all the more impressive because of its purposeful fragmentation. The text loops back on certain subjects and motifs, the way humans do in their minds. The most important of these, unsurprisingly, is art. Frémon clearly understands how much creating art informed Bourgeois’s life, and his writing about her work is often his most insightful.
A cat’s cradle woven from shreds of [Louise Bourgeois's] biography, it nonetheless can snare the heart.
— John Domini
Jean Frémon is a wholly singular artist, a writer who lives in the radiant zone
where poetry, philosophy, and storytelling meet.
— Paul Auster
The life of Louise Bourgeois is rendered in ellipses, quick brush strokes, and
a mix of associations of ideas and of sensations waltzing with chronology. A
highly original, sensitive text.