Glenn Ligon Untitled (There is a consciousness we all have...) 1988

  • Not on view

Since the mid–1980s Ligon has explored issues of identity, race, and sexuality across a wide range of media, from paintings and three–dimensional objects to prints, photographs, and drawings. In this early work, Ligon incorporates his characteristic use of language, investigating and manipulating the immense power of words. Later, in the 1990s, Ligon appropriated literary texts by black authors such as Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin. In this work he refers to a comment made in the New York Times about Martin Puryear, another contemporary African American artist: "There is a consciousness we all have that he is a black American artist but I think his work is really superior and stands on its own."

By stenciling this sentence in capital letters across two adjacent sheets of paper, Ligon purposefully and effectively creates disruptive breaks in the text, further disconnecting the sentence from any concrete reference to Puryear's work and forcefully pointing out the misguided practice of using race as a factor in judging the quality of a work of art. Furthermore, painted in light ochre, the words are not easily legible against the background, and only through a concerted effort can the text be read. Through such moments of discontinuity and ambiguity, Ligon has created an ironic and provocative visual statement about the critical reception of black artists and perceptions of race in general.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 67.
Oil, oilstick, pencil, and acrylic on two sheets of paper
30 x 44 3/4" (76.2 x 111.1 cm)
Gift of Jan Christiaan Braun in honor of Agnes Gund
Object number
© 2024 Glenn Ligon
Drawings and Prints

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