Urgent Museum Notice

The Song of the Blacks and the Blues

Close up of The Song of the Blacks and the Blues

Print with a vertical block of blue sandwiched between strips of black. Spiraling, tube forms of grey, red, white and dark blue occupy the central blue strip. Various sizes, the forms are arranged in two blocks on each side, with one large form and one tiny meeting in the center.

Louise Bourgeois, The Song of the Blacks and the Blues, 1996; Lithograph, woodcut, with hand-coloring on paper, 21 5/16 x 96 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase: Members' Acquisition Fund; Art © The Easton Foundation / VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

The Song of the Blacks and the Blues
Louise Bourgeois

Though best known for her sculpture, Louise Bourgeois began creating prints early in her career. When she returned to the print medium in the 1990s, she rendered enigmatic images in a restricted palette of black, white, red, and blue. In this mural-sized print,  The Song of the Blacks and the Blues, an ensemble of spiral forms appears to move and interact. Their narrative is unclear, however, raising the question of whether the two groups are confronting one another or coming together.

Much of Bourgeois’s imagery centers on the body, which she envisioned as both sensual and grotesque. The spiralling, tube forms in this print suggest a range of possible interpretations: seashells,  insect larvae, phalluses. Bourgeois also featured the spirals in an untitled print—which she subtitled Maggots—in her Anatomy Series (1989).

In the late 1940s, Bourgeois began exhibiting totem-style sculptures clustered together in groups. Assembled, her sculpted or printed personages alternately suggest community or a threatening proliferation. Bourgeois relished this ambiguity: “All my work is suggestive; it is not explicit. Explicit things are not interesting.”

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Louise Bourgeois
  • Title

    The Song of the Blacks and the Blues
  • Date

  • Medium

    Hand-coloring on paper, Lithograph, Woodcut
  • Dimensions

    21 3/4 x 96 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Museum Purchase: Members’ Acquisition Fund
  • Photo Credit

    © Louise Bourgeois Trust/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
  • On Display