(Los Angeles, August 30, 2011)—The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents the first comprehensive mid-career retrospective of Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), widely regarded as one of the most important and influential American artists to have emerged in the past two decades. Organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art by curator Scott Rothkopf, in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition surveys twenty-five years of Ligon’s work, from his post-graduate days in the Whitney Independent Study Program until the present. Glenn Ligon: AMERICA premiered at the Whitney (March 10–June 5, 2011); following LACMA’s presentation, it will travel to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (February 12–June 3, 2012).
LACMA’s presentation is curated by Franklin Sirmans, the Terri and Michael Smooke department head and curator of contemporary art. The exhibition features more than seventy-five works, including paintings, prints, photography, drawings, and sculptural installations, as well as striking recent neon reliefs—one of which, Rückenfigur (2009), was added to LACMA’s collection in 2010 and was on view in the recent exhibition Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection. LACMA also acquired another work of Ligon’s the same year, The Death of Tom (2008).
The retrospective debuts previously unexhibited early works that shed light on Ligon’s artistic origins, and for the first time reconstitutes major series, such as his seminal “Door” paintings, which launched the artist’s career. Loans are drawn from important institutional and private collections, including the artist’s, as well as several Los Angeles collections. Ligon has had a strong following in Los Angeles for several years due to a string of gallery exhibitions at Regen Projects dating back to 2004.
Throughout his career, Ligon has pursued an incisive exploration of American history, literature, and society in a body of work that builds critically on the legacies of modern painting and more recent conceptual art. A leading member of a generation of artists who came to the fore in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ligon is best known for his series of text-based paintings referencing the writings of noted authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Jean Genet, among others. These iconic black-and-white paintings—with their play between abstraction and legibility, light and dark, disembodied text and painterly physicality—signaled the arrival of a singular artistic vision that synthesized questions of identity with key concerns from recent art history, such as the role of appropriation and language in art.plus