The Song of the Blacks and the Blues 1996

Louise Bourgeois, The Song of the Blacks and the Blues, 1996; Museum Purchase: Members Acquisition Fund; © Louise Bourgeois Trust; Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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.” 

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