Glenn Ligon, Self-Portraits, 1996


NARRATOR: In these self-portraits, Ligon refuses to look directly out at us. The images, silk-screened onto canvas with thick enamel ink, are dark and grainy. Curator Scott Rothkopf:

SCOTT ROTHKOPF: He's both inhabiting the mug shot but then sort of undoing it by turning his head away from us and showing us only the back. It wouldn't be very useful in a police lineup or a criminal suspect picture. And I think that that tension, and that kind of resistance, is a real part of the work and its political interest.

And, you know, this is part of systems for law enforcement in this country, which black men are certainly more obviously made the target of than any other population. And I think Glenn is, in a way, responding to and resisting that.

Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Self–Portrait, 1996. Silkscreen ink and gesso on canvas, 48 x 40 in. (121.9 x 101.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Beth Rudin DeWoody P.2013.5. © Glenn Ligon