Glenn Ligon: AMERICA

Solo en Inglès

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.

Glenn Ligon, When Black Wasn’t Beautiful #1, 2004

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Narrator: 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.

Narrator: 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.


Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), _When Black Wasn't Beautiful #1_, 2004. Oil stick, synthetic polymer, and graphite on canvas. 30 x 30 in. (76.2 x 76.2 cm). Collection of Susan Hancock © Glenn Ligon; photograph courtesy of Glenn Ligon