Exhibit Information

Whitney Museum of American Art

Address 945 Madison Avenue @75th Street
New York, NY 10021

Click here for quick directions
Phone Number 212-570-3600

Website http://www.whitney.org


Opening: 10 MARCH 2011 - Closing: 5 JUNE 2011


It’s not easy, being both Black & Gay, in America.


These Decisive-Attributes inform the Artworks of Glenn Ligon, now on display in what is called a "Comprehensive Mid-Career Retrospective,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art.


This description of Ligon’s profusion of Painted & Neoned Words & Texts presumes that the Artist isn’t going to die anytime soon…


The Whitney’s Press-Release notes that Ligon is "widely-regarded as one of the most-important & influential American-Artists to have emerged in the past two decades.”


That Ligon was, once upon a time, a Student in the Whitney-Independent-Study-Program may also have something to do with the Urgency of this display of twenty-five years of Ligon’s work thus far.

Glenn Ligon: AMERICA features roughly 100 works, including Paintings, Prints, Photography, Drawings, & Sculptural-Installations, as well as recent Neon-Reliefs. One gallery is entirely devoted to three large Neon-AMERICAS.


Even before the show opened, it was a bit of a surprise to stroll up Madison Avenue & see a bold white Neon Negro Sunshine shining in the Whitney-Windows. To some, this may have seemed Tasteless, even Politically-Incorrect. But, for Ligon, that surely was the Point.


This phrase, or title, was borrowed from Gertrude Stein, whose appreciation of American-Negro-Life was clueless, to say the least. Read her bizarre, virtually-unreadable novel, Samantha


Adam D. Weinberg—the Whitney Museum’s Alice Pratt Brown Director—notes: "Few artists in the Whitne’s History have had as close a relationship with the Museum as Glenn Ligon has, dating back to his time in the Independent Study Program.


"Not only does the Whitney hold the largest-institutional-collection of his work, but Ligon has appeared in numerous exhibitions, including such Landmark-Shows as the 1993 Whitney Biennial & Black Male, in 1994.”


From the Whitney’s Press-Release:


"A leading-member of a Generation of Artists who Came-to-the-Fore in the late 1980s & early 1990s, by exploring Racial & Sexual-Identity in their work, Ligon is best-known for his Series of Text-Based-Paintings referencing the writings of noted African-American-Authors such as Zora Neale Hurston & Ralph Ellison—as well as Jean Genet, John Howard Griffin, & Mary Shelley, among others.


"These Iconic black-&-white paintings—with their play between Abstraction & Legibility, Light & Dark, Disembodied-Text & Painterly-Physicality—signaled the arrival of a Singular-Artistic-Vision that synthesized Questions of Identity with Key-Concerns from Recent-Art-History, such as the role of Appropriation & Language in Art.”


Ligon has certainly appropriated a number of Gay-White-Dead-Photographer Robert Mapplethorp’s images of a Nude-Black-Man.


In one room—replete with Fugitive-Slave-Notices: "Looking for Ligon”—there were, on Press-Preview day, three great silent wooden crates. I was initially at-a-loss to decode their meaning in this Installation.


Actually, the Crates should have been singing!

[Please! Just read the Wall-Texts! They will explain what the Artworks themselves do not…]


This gallery re-creates the bulk of his Landmark-Multimedia-Installation, To Disembark [1993].


This "explores the after-effects of Slavery in America, through a series of prints, in which Ligon casts himself as a Slave-on-the-Lam, & a Group of Crates, playing music that allude to the story of Henry Box Brown, a Slave who famously shipped himself to freedom.”


Also on display are eleven brightly-colored paintings, borrowing Quotations from Richard Pryor’s Stand-Up Comedy-Routines, which are "both funny & troubling in their Frank-Social-Critique,” plus a group of Six-Majestic-Canvases that treat Quotations from James Baldwin’s essay Stranger in the Village in Oil-Stick & Glittering-Coal-Dust.

Other Bodies-of-Work employ images & texts related to early Civil-Rights-Demonstrations, Political-Figures such as Jesse Jackson & Malcolm X, as well as 1970s Coloring-Books & "dream-books,” aimed at the African-American-Community.


"Although Deeply-Pointed & Courageous, Ligon’s Artistic-Voice is more subtle than strident, more investigative than declarative, the breadth of his Subject-Matter matched by the Wide-Range of Mediums he employs.”


You can say that again. And Again

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