Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

Cheim & Read

The sculpture fitly arches, achieving a rare sanctity—what earlier commentators on the Sublime declared to be a grace beyond the reach of art. It is possible to say it represents a lithesome body caught as if springing out of an acrobat’s routine, where the back arches in midair so that the tips of the middle fingers can light on the heels of the feet. Louise Bourgeois calls this work Arch of Hysteria. And yet a serene equilibrium centers its form. Still, the sense of delirium conveyed by the title sits comfortably next to this sculpture’s poise, because the hub of rationality is absent; a head for this figure has never existed.

It is not that the sculpture is imperfect; rather—as Rosalind Krauss has written about Bourgeois—it is a “part object”: an undiminished expression of subjective, creative desire where the center of rational experience is not merely superfluous but antithetical to

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