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 series of lithographs, Runaways, began with Ligon’s study of nineteenth-century advertisements for runaway slaves, written by slave owners.

GLENN LIGON: The descriptions were quite detailed: "He laughs a lot when he talks," or, "He can play the French horn," which seem to me unnecessary if you're just describing the return of a person who is your property. And the elaborateness of those descriptions seemed to speak to a complicated relationship between master and slaveholder.

NARRATOR: Ligon asked ten friends to describe him as if they were filing a “missing persons” report. He presented their descriptions in prints seeking a run-away named Glenn. Like the slave owners, Ligon’s friends paint a picture that is both generic—he is five feet eight inches tall—and oddly idiosyncratic. When Glenn walks, for example, “his feet cross each other a little bit.”

The works are funny and disturbing. With a light touch, Ligon confronts the issue of slavery and brings it into our own time. He suggests that it remains a powerful undercurrent in American society.


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