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: This painting, featuring the word “language” in orange stenciled letters on black, is part of a series based on “dream books”—pamphlets that offered ways to interpret one’s dreams. These pamphlets were common in the African American community in which Ligon grew up. The empty whorl of paint in the center of each work, quiet in some images and feverish in others, visually evokes the state of dreaming. We can see one of Ligon’s early attempts to merge language and abstract painting. Glenn Ligon:
GLENN LIGON: My early painting heroes were all the abstract expressionists, de Kooning, Kline, Jackson Pollock. It didn't make sense for me to try to be a fourth or fifth generation abstract expressionist, but my, my first love was those paintings, and I'm constantly going back to them.
NARRATOR: The dream books suggest interpretations about various subjects—sailors, sweethearts—or here, speaking a foreign language. They also offered lucky numbers to play in an underground lottery known as the “numbers.”
GLENN LIGON: I was very interested in those dream interpretations because they were clever, they used language in interesting ways. Also, there's a bit of family history, because my father, after his long shifts at the General Motors plant in upstate New York, worked at a numbers parlor.
- 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