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GLENN LIGON
at The Modern of Forth Worth thru June 3
by Todd Camplin

If you want the complex feelings of being uncomfortable, in awe, and a little surprised,
then Glenn Ligon's show "America" is a must see show. The Modern in Fort Worth says
this show is the first comprehensive retrospective of his work.
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Glenn Ligon plots out his identity through his own eyes and from the view point of others. His
sexuality and ethnic identity are laid bare in text. What I find interesting is that the words of
his statements are repeated and then decay into an unreadable mess of paint and sometimes
coal dust. I am reminded of Jasper Johns’ stencil paintings where the numbers and letters overlap
and lose some legibility. Ligon’s paintings will make some statements that will make you squirm, like
his racial “joke” series. These works were more colorful and attracted me to read them, but then
I felt bad for reading them.
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Whereas his more conversational pieces where easier to read, because they sound like advice
from family or friends that might not necessarily be helpful to Ligon. Identity is important to Ligon,
but I was inspired because he used his words in such an effective and straight forward way.
Beyond the hard hitting words is a minimalist aesthetics that gives a pleasure not found in
pure geometric pieces; a pleasure less about reading and more about the shape and form
of the works. When Ligon keeps repeating the sentences into overworked areas, you find
yourself unable to read, therefore you can appreciate the letters as shapes and curves.
Glenn Ligon (1960) Untitled (Conclusion) 2004. Oil stick, synthetic polymer, oil, coal dust, glue, and graphite
on canvas in two parts. 90 x 144 in. Collection of Jill and Peter Kraus –copyright- Glenn Ligon; image courtesy
the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
Glenn Ligon (1960) Mirror, 2002. Coal dust, printing ink, glue, gesso, and graphite on canvas,
82 5/8 x 55 1/8 in. Collection of Mellody Hobson –copyright- Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (1960) Ruckenfigur 2009. Neon and paint, 24 x 145 in. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase
with funds from the Paint and Sculpture Committee –copyright- Glenn Ligon
Most of the show was text based work except one area that had photos and another that had
large paintings with blown up versions of coloring books. The pictures where clustered together
depicting a lot of skin. I was reminded a little of Robert Mapplethorpe, but many of Ligon’s
images seem to be of himself. At first I didn’t quite get the large Warholesque coloring book
pages, but then I slowly realized that this too was about identity in early childhood.

Because of Glenn Ligon’s use of words, he has been a favorite of mine for years. So much so,
that I actually bought a catalog of his work. And on my limited budget, that is saying a lot.
The Modern of Forth Worth will have Glenn Ligon: America up until June 3rd.