Glenn Ligon is an American conceptual artist whose work explores race, language, and identity by engaging the subjects within wordplay. Sourcing literary gems from influential writers including, Zora Neal Hurston, Gertrude Stein, and James Baldwin, he uses language and textual experiments with legibility and eligibility to speak on challenging subject matters. His medium of choice—oil crayon used with letter stencils—transforms the texts he quotes, making them abstract, difficult to read, and layered in meaning, much like the subject matter that he appropriates. For the viewer, the words slowly dissipate into powerful messages as the text begins to blur and morph into a broader meaning.
His later work with text-based neon signs crossed that bridge – finding a connection between the illuminated signs and his text-heavy paintings that move his message on our collective experiences forward. Repetition is often a highlight in his work self-expression; to promote a progression of clarity in his thoughts and meditations.
Ligon’s paintings and sculptures continue to examine cultural and social identity through found sources—literature, Afrocentric coloring books, photographs—to reveal how the history of slavery, the civil rights movement, and sexual politics inform our understanding of American society.
LAMOCA has one of our favorite Ligon’s in their permanent collection – and we have the picture to prove it!
Glenn Ligon’s Untitled (America, America)- Neon and blackened steel, 2015. Each flickering sign reads America, meaning to embody the persistent sense that this country for all its “dark deeds” is nonetheless a shining light. By laying it flat in the floor he subverts the basic meaning of light to illuminate and blocks the purpose of language to communicate. #Americaamerica #lastory #lamoca #glennligon
The More You Know:
- VIDEO – Watch Glenn Ligon as he explains some of his more widely-known pieces.
- VIDEO – Watch Curator Thelma Golden and Glenn Ligon in Conversation.
- The Whitney Museum holds the most extensive collection of Ligon’s work. Visit their website for a listen & learn of essential pieces in their collection.