"Bourgeois's work from 1949 to 1953 consisted of wood sculptures, often driftwood or junkyard scraps, which she carved and cut into thin, rigid, upright "figures." The wood was painted to conceal its grain and texture, then driven with nails and gouged out, leaving holes, nicks, and scratches. Viewed on their own, these figures expressed isolation, each one representing a personality, raw and exposed. Seen together, they created a social circle that represented interaction and conveyed the security of a geometric system - closed, definite, and eternal - that, to Bourgeois, represented emotional preservation.
In 1954 Bourgeois joined the American Abstract Artists Group with several contemporaries, among them Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt. At this time she also befriended the artists Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. Artistically, Bourgeois was exploring such issues as internal distress, fear, vulnerability, and loss of control. Working with bronze, plaster, and marble, she changed her forms from rigid, upright structures to smooth, organic shapes. She exhibited at the Whitney Biennale in 1973 and began teaching at the Pratt Institute, Cooper Union, and the New York Studio School. In experimenting with performance art, she produced A Bouquet, A Fashion of Body Parts (1978), whose cast paraded through a room wearing latex dresses with globular protrusions. In 1991 at the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh, Bourgeois exhibited her "environmental sculpture" Cells, a series of closed, object-filled spaces."