Twosome, 1991

Though this large-scale sculptural installation can be read in different ways, the tension between opposing forces is central. Several polarities are at play: inside and outside, acceptance and rejection, introjection, and projection, separation and reunion.

Thematically, Bourgeois viewed this piece as related to a house and a family. The windows cut in the tanks’ sides physically echo those of the Bourgeois family’s country home in Easton, Connecticut. Conceptually, the interdependent relationship between the tanks can be seen as symbolic of the mother and child, and the inseparable maternal bond between them. In this reading, the metal chain that connects the two tanks is an umbilical cord, which in turn serves to symbolically ward off the artist’s psychological fear of abandonment. As always in Bourgeois’s work, this anxiety is accompanied by its counterparts of reparation and reconciliation.
At the time of its first installation at MoMA in 1991, Bourgeois described the piece as follows:

“This piece was invested with the size of the family. It is scaled to the relations of the family and the house.

The opening and the mechanics are very important, because the small one can roll in and out without interference and with great ease. They each have their place but they’re completely isolated from each other. But on the other hand, to be next to each other is better than to be lost in the outside.

It relates to birth, sex, excretion – taking in and pushing out. In and out covers all our functions. In and out is a key to the piece. It’s a meditation on these words, a metaphor for being in and out of trouble, in and out of fashion, in and out of line, in and out of synch, in and out of focus, in and out of bounds.

A twosome is a closed world. Two people constitute an environment. One person alone is an object. An object doesn’t relate to anything unless you make it relate, it has a solitary and poor and pathetic quality. As soon as you get concerned with the other person, it becomes an environment, which involves not only you, who are contained, but also the container.”

Louise Bourgeois, TWOSOME, 1991, Steel, paint, and electric light 190.5 x 193 x 1244.6, Collection of the Easton Foundation, Photo: Peter Bellamy © The Easton Foundation/ Licensed by VAGA, NY

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