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Glenn Ligon

American  •  b. 1960


Glenn Ligon, who gained prominence in the early 1990s along with a generation of artists including Gary Simmons and Lorna Simpson, is a conceptual artist who throughout his career has pursued an incisive exploration of American history, literature, and society. Together with Thelma Golden, Ligon coined the term “post-blackness”, describing it in the catalogue for the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Freestyle landmark exhibition in 2001 as, “the liberating value in tossing off the immense burden of race-wide representation, the idea that everything they do must speak to or for or about the entire race.” 

While Ligon’s body of work spans neon, photography, sculptures, print, installation, and video, he is most widely associated with his text-based paintings that draw on the writings and speech of diverse figures such as Jean Genet, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, and Walt Whitman.


  • 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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