Glenn Ligon's 2007 work Warm Broad Glow.

Glenn Ligon’s Art Projects a Powerful Voice

The conceptual artist is known for his piercing and profound text-based works

Glenn Ligon, a conceptual artist who creates paintings, prints and drawings using phrases written or uttered by personalities like Richard Pryor, Mary Shelley, James Baldwin and Malcolm X, in his studio in New York.
Glenn Ligon Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times/Redux

Glenn Ligon often appropriates texts from African-American literature to explore race, identity, sexuality, and language. Raised in the Bronx, New York, Ligon attended both Wesleyan University and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. His career took off with a mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2011. The exhibition traveled to museums throughout the United States.

Often considered a conceptual artist, Ligon’s work spans several mediums including painting, neon, digital, installations, and photography. The words in the text-based works are often obscured in some manner, encouraging people to take a closer look. In Ligon’s 2012 neon work Double America the two words initially appear to be mirror images of each other, but at deeper inspection are not exact reflections. Ligon says, “that was a way of thinking about how you have something that both addresses the viewer—and turns away from them.”

His works are in major collections including the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. At a 2015 Christie’s auction, his Stranger #37 (2008) sold for over $2.9 million—his highest-selling piece to date.

An installation view of Ligon’s Come Out #13, whose title comes from a work by composer Steve Reich—the letters have been repeatedly layered so that they near abstraction. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Thomas Dane Gallery, London
Cover: Glenn Ligon's 2007 work Warm Broad Glow.

Born: 1960, The Bronx, New York
Lives: New York, New York

2016, We Need to Wake Up Cause That’s What Time it is, Luhring Augustine, New York
2015, Well, it’s bye-bye/If you call that gone, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, California

Luhring Augustine, New York, New York
Regen Projects, Los Angeles, California
Thomas Dane Gallery, London, England

Glenn Ligon: Some Changes by Darby English and Wayne Baerwaldt—The Power Plant, 2009


Sign up to receive the best in art, design, and culture from Galerie

Thank You
Your first newsletter will arrive shortly.