Gerard Bourgeois’ latest work, exhibited under the title ”The Sacred Feminine” (uh oh!), evidences that the artist has an ongoing capacity to evolve from one plateau to the next. From painting ocean liners marooned in the middle of nowhere, to ephemeral landscapes, to flirtations with the figure, Bourgeois does have a knack for making the commonplace unique.
In “Après le Bain,” he depicts a woman emerging from her bath attended by someone of indeterminable gender. The woman’s face and body are loosely brushed, leaving details to the viewer’s imagination. Here as in other paintings of this series, the background is articulated strongly enough so as to compete with the subject.
As in previous shows, Bourgeois presents several large canvases together with the studies preceding them. The smaller paintings are often as compelling, if not stronger than the starring one.
In this particular series, Bourgeois seems to concentrate more on painterly process than the subject, a welcome change from his landscape series, which were ephemeral and, at times, simply too hazy. Here however, when he does get into that sketchy, hyper-suggestive mode, as in “Dans la Douche,” the results, rather than becoming tranquil, are surreal, bordering on the nightmarish, but also perversely compelling. Hitchcock redux.
Then again, one can hardly describe a painting like “L’Adoration”, depicting a woman cradling a child tenderly albeit somewhat awkwardly, in those terms. As pretty at it is, technically, it is also one of the best. If Bourgeois is aiming to get at the essence of mother-child interaction, he gets it just right in “The Guide,” which is also compositionally the most successful work on view. Even though the background is as strong as the subject, the two form a harmonious whole.
In its entirety, this body of work, in spite of its questionable title, avoids cloying sentimentality. Bourgeois is fearlessly journeying into new technical and narrative territory.