Mark Borghi Fine Art

Glenn Ligon


Glenn Ligon was born in 1960 in the Bronx, New York. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design for two years beginning in 1980, and received a BA from Wesleyan University in 1982. In 1985, he participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program. Combining painting, photography, and conceptual practices, Ligon has addressed issues of racial and sexual identity in his work. He first attracted recognition for his paintings in which texts are written in black against white backgrounds, such as Untitled (I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background) (1990–91). In Notes on the Margin of the Black Book (1991–93), Ligon juxtaposed reproductions of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographic images of black men with his own textual critiques of the images. His Stranger in the Village paintings (2000) use coal dust to lend a racial signification to seemingly abstract paintings. For his Colored series (2000), the artist asked children to color pages from Black Pride-themed coloring books of the 1970s and then silkscreened the results onto large canvases. Annotations (2003), Ligon’s first web-based project, expands on his earlier works about family photo albums, such as A Feast of Scraps (1994–98); in this later work, ambiguously assembled photographs of the kind one would find in a family album—group photographs from dinner parties, studio portraits, informal snapshots taken in living rooms—are linked to texts, other photographs, and audio clips to explore the creation of personal and familial histories. In 2005, Ligon began to create works in neon writing which employed quotes from historical figures like Sojourner Truth and Gloria Steinem; to directly engage with the art historically laden medium, he covered the visible side of the glass with thick coats of black paint and left the part of the tubes facing the walls exposed to create a luminous haze of light behind the inscriptions.

Ligon has had solo shows at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (1993), Brooklyn Museum of Art (1996), Saint Louis Art Museum (2000), the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001), and The Power Plant in Toronto (2005), among other venues. Group shows in which he has participated include the Whitney Biennial (1991 and 1993), Biennale of Sydney (1996), Venice Biennale (1997), Kwangju Biennale (2000), (2002 and 2003), Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self at the International Center of Photography in New York (2003), and Learn to Read at the Tate Modern, London (2007). He has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982, 1989, and 1991), Art Matters (1990), the Joan Mitchell Foundation (1997), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2003). In 2006 he was awarded the Skowhegan Medal for Painting. He lives and works in New York.

Selected Works