Glenn Ligon: AMERICA Audio Guide Playlist
This audio guide, introduced by Alice Pratt Brown Director Adam D. Weinberg, highlights a diverse range of works from the exhibition Glenn Ligon: AMERICA. Artist Glenn Ligon, exhibition curator Scott Rothkopf, and Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, provide additional commentary.
NARRATOR: Much of Ligon’s work is austere and quiet. But his series based on the comedy of Richard Pryor shouts in neon colors and profane language. Pryor was one of America’s greatest comedians, famous for his unsparing observations about race. Glenn Ligon:
GLENN LIGON: His jokes are very pointed political commentary. They're funny, but they're also cringe-worthy and that sort of tension between very sharp, biting satire of American culture and their jokiness was something I was interested in.
NARRATOR: As curator Scott Rothkopf explains, the paintings capture—and even re-create—that tension.
SCOTT ROTHKOPF: Often, the colors are so bright that they kind of are actually hard to look at. The paintings feel like they have a vibrating, optical effect, and you can't even sometimes see the text against this colorful ground, they're hard to read. I think another thing that he captures is certainly the difficulty of reading this kind of language which you're used to encountering, let's say, in a comedy club . . . and now you're being forced to look at it in an art gallery. And you are, in a way, implicated in this language, because you're reading this word nigger in your mind, and someone's watching you do that, and you're watching them do that. So, it becomes a kind of public act. Something fascinating happens when you change contexts.
NARRATOR: To hear Thelma Golden’s take on these paintings, press play:
- 300 Introduction to Glenn Ligon: AMERICA
- 301 Glenn Ligon, Untitled (I Am a Man), 1988
- 302 Glenn Ligon, No 291 (Language), 1988
- 303 Glenn Ligon, Untitled (I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background), 1990
- 304 Glenn Ligon, Untitled (I Remember the Very Day That I Became Colored), 1990
- 305 Glenn Ligon, Untitled (I Was Somebody), 1991
- 306 Glenn Ligon, Runaways, 1993
- 307 Glenn Ligon, Notes on the Margin of the Black Book, 1991–1993
- 307b Glenn Ligon, Notes on the Margin of the Black Book, 1991–1993
- 308 Glenn Ligon, We’re Black and Strong I, 1996
- 309 Glenn Ligon, Self-Portraits, 1996
- 310 Glenn Ligon, Malcolm X (Version 1) #1, 2000
- 311 Glenn Ligon, When Black Wasn’t Beautiful #1, 2004
- 312 Glenn Ligon, Untitled (Conclusion), 2004
- 313 Glenn Ligon, Self-Portrait, 2002