Untitled (America)/Debris Field/Synecdoche/Notes for a Poem on the Third World
For this exhibition, Ligon will present a new series of silkscreen paintings based on abstracted letter forms and several neon installations. This marks the artist’s sixth solo presentation at the gallery.
Glenn Ligon’s wide-ranging multimedia art practice encompasses painting, neon, photography, sculpture, print, installation, and video. Perhaps best known for his monochromatic and highly textured text paintings that draw their content from American history, popular culture, and literary works by writers such as James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Gertrude Stein, and Jean Genet, among others, his work explores issues of history, language, and cultural identity.
Titled Debris Field, the silkscreen paintings are made using a new process for the artist. Rather than generating from a specific text, Ligon focuses on letter forms, using images of his own etchings and stencil-and-ink drawings to create large silkscreens, which are then printed in black etching ink on red canvases, some with additional passages of hand-stenciling. Each screen is overlapped to create a dense pattern of letter-based shapes, resulting in an improvisatory, cumulative painting technique.
Over the years, Ligon has created neon sculptures that illuminate various phrases or words in charged and animated ways. Ligon’s first figurative neon sculpture, Notes for a Poem on the Third World, is based on a tracing of the artist's hands that takes its inspiration from an unrealized film project by Pier Paolo Pasolini that was to be shot in India, Africa, the Arab countries, Latin America, and the "black ghettoes of the United States." Pasolini claimed that it was the "discovery of the elsewhere" that drove his identification with the struggles of non-Western peoples and people on the margins of the West. Ligon's neon, with its ambiguous gesture of greeting, protest, or surrender, is the first of a series of works inspired by Pasolini’s project.