The presence of the work He Disappeared into Complete Silence (1947 / 2005) by Louise Bourgeois (Paris, France, 1911 – New York, USA, 2010) in the Museo Reina Sofía is the result of a loan agreement reached in 2015 with the Easton Foundation. This work, along with the rest of Bourgeois’ loaned sculptures, are on display in room 411 inside the Collection.
From the very beginning of her career, Louise Bourgeois took an interest in etchings, a practice she would keep up across the length and breadth of her oeuvre. The etchings on display in the Museo Reina Sofía are part of He Disappeared into Complete Silence, her first book, made with Atelier Hayter, and in collaboration with Marius Bewlwy, Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery.
In this 2005 edition, hand-coloured by Bourgeois, two further prints are added to the original edition. One of the prints was already rejected in 1947, while the other, more contemporary one uses the artist’s now classic iconography, adapted to the aesthetic context of her early works.
He Disappeared into Complete Silence expounds themes that would be a constant throughout Bourgeois’ work, for instance the loss of a mother, jealousy, filial rejection, cannibalism and violent death. Landscape objects, subjects objects, desired subjects, bodiless organs, in the words of Rosalind Krauss.
In the same way, a reference must also be made to George Bataille’s works on architecture. They portray
monuments, the skyscrapers where man carries out his tendency towards elevation, as a way in which form – architecture – maintains the ‘thing’ in the realm of being, extracting it from the confused indifference of the indeterminate, of the formless. This idea would be the leitmotif that formed the backbone of Bourgeois’ later work.
The artist produced the book whilst already in New York - the cruel city that shuts out all hope and joy, the same city that spoke to Thomas Wolfe in Death the Proud Brother, reconstructed by Bourgeois in the same time period, thus prompting He Disappeared into Complete Silence to primarily deal with the “loss of self-esteem” and “descent into depression”, but also with an “awakening each morning”, as the artist herself said.
Stirred by New York, by the skyscrapers, the “uncomfortable spaces”, Bourgeois etched images of closed and impenetrable skyscrapers, interpreting them as huge cages. Empty landscapes, in an indeterminate spatiality, metaphysical in formal terms. Clean forms, mechanical, geometric yet formless, totemic and compulsively repeated like inevitable gestures.