Identity, self-scrutiny, memory and the tensions inherent in human relationships are the core themes of Louise Bourgeois’s art. Although Bourgeois has often referred to her works as a means of liquidating the memory of traumatic episodes, her diaristic art is generated by personal memories. Bourgeois is acclaimed as one of the most innovative artists to have emerged in the United States in the second-half of the twentieth century. She was especially prolific from the early 1980s, and from 1990 produced a vast series of ‘cells’ – cubic or cylindrical chambers into which she placed objects and smaller works found in and around her studio.
The industrial window frames of Cell (Glass spheres and hands) typify Bourgeois’s environments. In this work the artist reconfigures her family, including her father’s mistress, as glass spheres incapable of interpersonal communication. The clasped hands are Bourgeois’s self-portrait and, like other fragments of anatomy that appear consistently in her works, embody anxiety, isolation and emotional intensity.