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Glenn Ligon

American  •  b. 1960

Biography

Glenn Ligon gained prominence in the early 1990s as a pioneering artist whose incisive work exploring of the contemporary American experience utilized the methods and legacies of modern painting and conceptual art. Embracing an intertextual approach, Ligon incorporates works from the arts, literature, history, and his own life to investigate American society and its inequities. Though he began his career as an abstract painter, he began incorporating text into his work in the mid-1980s to better articulate his political concerns and his ideas about racial identity and experience. He samples writing from famed Black writers including James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ralph Ellison, among other authors. 

Ligon’s body of work includes painting, photography, sculpture, installation, video, and neon art, but he is most widely associated with his text-based paintings. He is also notable for conceptualizing the term “Post-Blackness,” with Thelma Golden, describing it as “the liberating value in tossing off the immense burden of race-wide representation, the idea that everything they do must speak too for or about the entire race.” His work is held in notable museum collections around the world.

Insights

  • Selected honors: International Association of Art Critics Award (2012); Studio Museum's Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, New York, NY (2009); John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, New York, NY (2003); Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (1997); National Endowment for the Arts, Visual Artist Fellowship, Painting (1991); National Endowment for the Arts, Visual Artist Fellowship, Drawing (1989)

 “I’m interested in what happens when a text is difficult to read or frustrates legibility—what that says about our ability to think about each other, know each other, process each other.”

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