During a 1973 strike by employees of The Museum of Modern Art, Bourgeois joined in a protest march, carrying a banner on which she had repeatedly painted the word "no." The banner was executed on the back of an untitled painting from 1946-1947 that is now in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller in Otterlo, Netherlands. The painting is seen below in Related Works in Other Mediums.
The Collage Source: Around the same time, Bourgeois also executed a 4.5-foot-long collage using cut-out pieces of newsprint and magazine clippings displaying the word "no" in various typefaces and sizes. She created the collage in three separate panels and then glued them down on a single backing. Later, each of the three panels of the collage served as sources for her printed “No” compositions, seen in the diagram below. The leftmost panel is designated here as source (1), the center panel is source (2), and the rightmost panel is source (3). The prints, and one multiple, are titled "No (1)," "No (2)," and "No (3)," and are catalogued according to the panel of the source collage from which they derive.
The Print Project: Bourgeois began the print project by having photostats made from each source at a commercial printshop. Over time, some collage elements on the source fell off and were lost. After the collage came into MoMA’s Collection, the Conservation Department reattached whatever loose pieces were recovered. Since the photostats were taken at different times, before some pieces fell off the collage, they are a record of how the collage once looked. The current state of the collage can be seen in the Sources in the Evolving Composition Diagram below.
The artist stopped work on this print project in 1973 and took it up again in 1992, when she was approached to make a benefit print for Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), a French humanitarian organization. She experimented with "No (1)" and "No (2)" in several different mediums, but eventually abandoned this idea for the benefit print; "Storm at St. Honoré," seen below in Related Works in the Catalogue, was subsequently used for that purpose.
Additional Projects: In 2000, Bourgeois returned to "No" as the inspiration for a number of different projects. "No (1)" was developed as the artist's contribution to Cultural Ties, a series of artist-designed necktie multiples benefiting UNICEF. Bourgeois's necktie design reproduces "No (1)" in red and blue, with the artist's signature embroidered in red thread on the lining. "No (1)" was also made into a billboard for The Vienna Secession's series, "Projekt Fassade." Located on the landmark Vienna Secession Building, the series uses the building's often-photographed facade as a platform for critical artistic thought and expression.
Related Works in Other Mediums: In 1992, the artist made a unique needlepoint from version 2 or 3 of "No (2)." It uses black thread to render the composition on a tan piece of fabric. It measures 15 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches (39.4 x 44.5 cm). An image of that work is not available.
Bourgeois used the "No" motif in 2000 when she was asked to create a benefit work by The Retreat, an organization that aims to break the cycle of family violence. The Retreat gave each participating artist a plain white plate to adorn for their annual auction, "Artists Against Abuse." Bourgeois painted the word "no" in various sizes and styles, in an arrangement similar to the source collage. An image of that work is not available.
"Number Seventy-Two (The No March)," seen below in Related Works in Other Mediums, relates to the "concept of 'No' as a protest cry.... Bourgeois [saw] in that piece a throng of individuals demonstrating in protest. With the repetitiveness of the small marble columns, and also of the word 'No' in her banner design, she [communicated] the sense that the protesters will, in her words 'refuse to disappear.'" (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah. "Committed to Print: Social and Political Themes in Recent American Printed Art." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1988, p. 12.)
"Looking at the word 'no' repeated again and again, Bourgeois said, 'This is the desire to be clear... it is an attempt... it is a wish. I want to say 'no,' but I am a pushover. Obedience is the big word... sometimes I obey, but I am never convinced. I go through the motions because I have been taught to be obedient... but behind this, I never give in. Never giving in makes it hard to learn to forgive... it does not come naturally.'" (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 138.)
The location and medium of the signature and the inscriptions could not be documented because this work is not in MoMA's Collection and could not be examined in person.
The inscriptions in the artist's hand were added in 1988, when this impression was exhibited in "Committed to Print," organized at MoMA by Deborah Wye.
The inscription refers to Inge Morath and Arthur Miller, who received this work from the artist.
Bourgeois had an enlarged photograph (46 7/8 x 88 1/16 in. [119 x 223.7 cm]) of this photostat mounted on canvas, c. 1988.
If you are interested in reproducing images from The Museum of Modern Art web site, please visit the Image Permissions page (www.moma.org/permissions). For additional information about using content from MoMA.org, please visit About this Site (www.moma.org/site).