November 18, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Presents
GLENN LIGON: AMERICA
February 12-June 3, 2012
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth presents the first comprehensive midcareer 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 and Whitney curator Scott Rothkopf, in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition surveys 25 years of Ligon’s work, from his student days until the present.
Glenn Ligon: AMERICA features roughly 100 works, including paintings, prints, photography, drawings, and sculptural installations, as well as striking recent neon reliefs. The retrospective also debuts previously unexhibited early works, which shed light on Ligon’s artistic origins, and for the first time reconstitutes major series, such as the seminal Door paintings that launched the artist’s career. Works in the exhibition come from important institutional and private collections, as well as from the artist’s personal collection.
The Modern’s curator, Andrea Karnes, comments, “The Modern is honored to host this major exhibition of one of the most important American artists working today. This midcareer retrospective includes Ligon’s key works to date, and shows the development of his career in a way that is insightful and revealing.”
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 recently, conceptual art. A leading member of a generation of artists who came to the fore in the late 1980s and early 1990s by exploring racial and sexual identity in their work, Ligon is best known for his series of text-based paintings based on the writings of noted African American authors such as Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison, as well as Jean Genet, John Howard Griffin, and Mary Shelley, 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. Rothkopf remarks, “Although Ligon emerged in the wake of the American culture wars, with hindsight we are increasingly able to appreciate the formal subtlety and beauty of his work, which in fact adds to its force and social relevance. The exhibition is titled Glenn Ligon: AMERICA to draw attention to the fact that he addresses the concerns of all Americans, regardless of our backgrounds, while exploring our sometimes troubled histories and shared dreams for the future.”
About the Artist
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Ligon earned his BA from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and studied at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. He has presented solo museum exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris (1993); the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (1993); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1996); the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2000); the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001); and the Power Plant, Toronto (2005), among other venues. His awards and honors include a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2003); the Skowhegan Medal for Painting (2006); the Academy Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006); the Studio Museum’s Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize (2009); and a United States Artist Fellowship (2010). His work is found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the High Museum of Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center; as well as many other institutions.
Glenn Ligon: AMERICA is accompanied by a full-color, scholarly monograph, published in association with Yale University Press, with over two hundred illustrations. An essay by curator Rothkopf surveys the artist’s entire career, drawing on extensive research and the author’s firsthand study of Ligon’s work. The publication also includes a substantial essay by distinguished curator and critic Okwui Enwezor, former dean of the San Francisco Art Institute and artistic director of Documenta 11, and explores literary devices in Ligon’s art. Four shorter essays by Columbia University professor Saidiya Hartman, New Yorker staff writer Hilton Als, LACMA curator Franklin Sirmans, and LA MOCA curator Bennett Simpson, examine Ligon’s artistic concerns in a broader cultural context. A candid conversation between the artist and Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, reflects on their close personal and professional relationship over the past twenty years. The catalogue concludes with the publication of Ligon’s first comprehensive exhibition history and bibliography.
In addition to the exhibition catalogue, Yale University Press will publish a companion volume of Ligon’s collected writings and interviews, with a brief introduction by Rothkopf. This book, entitled Yourself in the World, includes a selection of twelve of Ligon’s interviews and ten of his trenchant essays. With great erudition, humor, and a lively personal style, Ligon has tackled a broad range of subjects from pop culture and the impact of David Hammons on younger artists to the first post-Katrina biennial in New Orleans. This volume promises to be an indispensable source reader for artists, students, and all those interested in contemporary art, politics, culture, and American history.
Glenn Ligon: AMERICA is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art. Major support for Glenn Ligon: AMERICA is provided by the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
3200 Darnell Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76107
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