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Glenn Ligon in "History"
A retrospective of artist Glenn Ligon’s work at the Whitney Museum provides a backdrop for his personal history growing up in New York, as well as for the disparate influences that contribute to his mature work—from DeKooning, to children’s coloring books of the 1970’s, to classics of American literature by writers such as Gertrude Stein or Zora Neale Hurston.More information
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Glenn Ligon’s paintings and sculptures examine cultural and social identity through found sources—literature, Afrocentric coloring books, photographs—to reveal the ways in which the history of slavery, the civil rights movement, and sexual politics inform our understanding of American society. Ligon appropriates texts from a variety of literary writers including Walt Whitman, Zora Neal Hurston, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison. In Ligon’s paintings, the instability of his medium—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. In other works that feature silkscreen, neon, and photography, Ligon threads his own image and autobiography into symbols that speak to collective experiences.
“I didn’t really do drawings when I was a kid.
I made copies of things.”