Human Interest

Solo en Inglès

Listen to commentary by artists and scholars on selected works in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, including Thelma Golden, K8 Hardy, Byron Kim, Deana Lawson, and Joan Semmel.

Glenn Ligon, Self-Portrait #7, 1996 & Self-Portrait, 1996

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Narrator: In this self-portrait, Glenn Ligon refuses to look directly out at us. The images, silk-screened onto canvas with thick enamel ink, are dark and grainy. Scott Rothkopf is deputy director for programs and Nancy and Steve Crown family chief curator.

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.

Narrator: In this self-portrait, Glenn Ligon refuses to look directly out at us. The images, silk-screened onto canvas with thick enamel ink, are dark and grainy. Scott Rothkopf is deputy director for programs and Nancy and Steve Crown family chief curator.

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, _Self Portrait #7_, 1996. Screenprint on canvas, 48 × 40 1/8 × 1 1/2 in. (121.9 × 101.9 × 3.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the artist 2012.105 © Glenn Ligon