Throughout his career, Glenn Ligon has pursued an incisive exploration of American history, literature, and society across a body of work that builds critically on the legacies of modern painting and more recent conceptual art. He is best known for his landmark series of highly textured text-based paintings, which draw on the writings and speech of diverse figures such as Jean Genet, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman and Richard Pryor. In addition to paintings, Ligon’s practice also encompasses neon, photography, sculptures, print, installation, and video. Both politically provocative and formally rigorous, his work explores issues of history, language and identity.
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960) lives and works in New York. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University in 1982, and attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 1985. A mid-career retrospective of Ligon’s work, Glenn Ligon: America, organized by Scott Rothkopf, opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in March 2011 and traveled nationally. Ligon has also been the subject of solo museum exhibitions at Camden Arts Center in London, the Power Plant in Toronto, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, and the Kunstverein Munich. He has also participated in major group exhibitions such as the Berlin Biennal (2014), Istanbul Biennal (2011), Documenta XI (2002), Gwangju Biennale (2000), and Venice Biennale (1997 and 2015) and the Whitney Biennial (1991 and 1993). Important recent shows include Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions, a curatorial project organized with Nottingham Contemporary and Tate Liverpool, and Blue Black, an exhibition Ligon curated at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis.
Monographs of Ligon’s work include Glenn Ligon: AMERICA published by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Yourself in the World: Selected Writings and Interviews published by Yale University Press, New Haven, CT; Glenn Ligon – Some Changes published by the Power Plant, Toronto; Glenn Ligon: Unbecoming published by the ICA Philadelphia; and Coloring: New Work by Glenn Ligon published by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.
Ligon has earned numerous awards and recognition for his work, including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in 1997, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2003, the Skowhegan Medal for Painting in 2006, and the Studio Museum’s Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize in 2009. Selected public collections include Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Tate Modern, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.
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