Alex Van Gelder’s Mumbling Beauty: Louise Bourgeois is an intimate, uncompromising portrait of the artist Louise Bourgeois in the final years of her life (2008-2010). Bourgeois allowed Van Gelder into her private realm, her studio and home, and indulged his lens, while working, resting, waiting, mischievous or lost in thought, weary, raging, defiant to the end. She does not merely pose, she performs, she fills the camera with her presence. She is the photographer’s full and essential collaborator. It is a profound portrait of an artist of the utmost consequence and a piercing study of great age.
The art of Louise Bourgeois is confessional, psychological, fraught with ferocious and delicate passions. Van Gelder’s portrait of Bourgeois – Rembrandt-esque in depth and pathos and sly humour – is in many ways a message from Bourgeois to the world, her chosen epitaph, as it were, scrawled in her own way by gesture, posture and expression.
Despite the frailty and decrepitude of her near one hundred years, she defies vulnerability. She disregards the camera, and yet, alert and aware even when exhausted, knows that it is aimed at her and she is thinking and seeing through it, through the eye of Alex Van Gelder.