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Glenn Ligon: AMERICA

Mar 10–June 5, 2011

Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Rückenfigur, 2009. Neon and paint, 24 × 145 in. (61 × 368.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Paint and Sculpture Committee  T.2010.71. © Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Malcolm X (Version 1) #1, 2000. Vinyl-based paint, silkscreen ink, and gesso on canvas, 96 × 72 in. (243.8 × 182.9 cm). Collection of Michael and Lise Evans. © Glenn Ligon

Glenn Ligon: AMERICA is the first comprehensive mid-career retrospective devoted to this pioneering New York–based artist. Throughout his career, Ligon (b. 1960) has pursued an incisive exploration of American history, literature, and society across a body of work that builds critically on the legacies of modern painting and more recent conceptual art. He is best known for his landmark series of text-based paintings, made since the late 1980s, which draw on the writings and speech of diverse figures including Jean Genet, Zora Neale Hurston, Jesse Jackson, and Richard Pryor. Ligon’s subject matter ranges widely from the Million Man March and the aftermath of slavery to 1970s coloring books and the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe—all treated within artworks that are both politically provocative and beautiful to behold.

This exhibition features roughly one hundred works, including paintings, prints, photography, drawings, and sculptural installations, as well as striking recent neon reliefs, one newly commissioned for the Whitney’s Madison Avenue windows. Ligon’s most iconic works will be presented alongside previously unexhibited early paintings and drawings, which will shed new light on his artistic origins. The exhibition is accompanied by an amply illustrated catalogue that examines Ligon’s working methods in the context of American culture more broadly. Yourself in the World, a companion volume published by the Whitney and Yale University Press, collects Ligon’s lively interviews and trenchant essays on topics ranging from pop culture and the work of young artists to the first post-Katrina Biennial in New Orleans.

Glenn Ligon: AMERICA is organized by Whitney curator Scott Rothkopf. The exhibition travels to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the fall of 2011 and to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in early 2012.

Major support for Glenn Ligon: AMERICA is provided by the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Significant support is provided by Candy and Michael Barasch; The Broad Art Foundation; Lise and Michael Evans; Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins; The Maurice Marciano Family Foundation; Agnes Gund; Tony Salamé: Aïshti foundation; the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; Barbara and Richard Lane; Gregory R. Miller and Michael Wiener; Charles and Nathalie de Gunzburg; Rodney M. Miller Sr.; Lenore and Adam Sender; Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn; Steven Latner, Michael Latner, and H. A. Latner; and an anonymous donor.

Works from the Exhibition

Glenn Ligon (b.1960), Mirror, 2002. Coal dust, printing ink, glue, gesso, and graphite on canvas, 82 5/8 × 55 1/8 in. (209.9 × 147.6 cm). Collection of Mellody Hobson © Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (b.1960), Untitled (I Am a Man), 1988. Oil and enamel on canvas, 40 × 25 in. (101.6 × 63.5 cm). Collection of the artist © Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (b.1960), Hands, 1996. Silkscreen ink and gesso on unstretched canvas, 82 × 144 in. (208.3 × 365.8 cm). Collection of Eileen Harris Norton © Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (b.1960), Sun (Version 2) #1, 2001. Silkscreen ink, oil stick, and gesso on canvas, 48 × 36 in. (121.9 × 91.4 cm). Collection of Eileen Harris Norton © Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (b.1960), Self-Portrait, 1996. Silkscreen ink and gesso on canvas, 48 × 40 in. (121.9 × 101.6 cm). Collection of the artist  © Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (b.1960), Untitled (Speech/Crowd #2), 2000. Silkscreen ink, coal dust, ink, and glue on paper, 40 × 54 in. (101.6 × 137.2 cm). Collection of the artist  © Glenn Ligon; image courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles; photograph by Ronald Amstutz
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Untitled (I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background), 1990. Oil stick, gesso, and graphite on wood. 80 × 30 in. (203.2 × 76.2 cm). Collection of Eileen Harris Norton © Glenn Ligon; image courtesy of the artist; photograph by Dennis Cowley
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Untitled (Conclusion), 2004. Oil stick, synthetic polymer, oil, coal dust, glue, and graphite on canvas in two parts. 90 × 144 in. (228.6 × 365.8 cm). Collection of Jill and Peter Kraus © Glenn Ligon; image courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Therapy #1, 2004. Oil stick, synthetic polymer, and graphite on canvas, 32 × 32 in. (81.3 × 81.3 cm). Collection of Shaun Caley Regen © Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Endless Column/Nu Nile (Yellow), 1985. Synthetic polymer, ink, and graphite on paper, 22 1/8 × 15 1/4 in. (56.2 × 38.7 cm). Collection of the artist  © Glenn Ligon; image courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles; photograph by Ronald Amstutz
Installation view of Glenn Ligon: AMERICA (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, March 10–June 5, 2011). Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins.
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), No. 276 (Honeycomb), 1990. Oil, synthetic polymer, oil stick, and graphite on paper, 30 × 22 1/4 in. (76.2 × 56.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.187. © Glenn Ligon; photograph by Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art.com
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Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, created in close collaboration with the artist, surveys twenty-five years of Ligon’s art, including paintings, sculptural installations, prints, and drawings. Essays examine his working methods in depth and situate his output within a broad cultural context, while lavish new photography highlights the formal subtlety of his art. This first comprehensive survey of Ligon’s career will greatly advance our appreciation of his pioneering oeuvre.

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