(From Left to right) Glenn Ligon, Thelma Golden, Brooke Neidich and Scott Rothkopf at the 2014 Whitney Gala presented by Louis Vuitton at The Breuer Building on November 19, 2014, in New York City. Photo by Andrew H. Walker.
10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024, United States
Thelma Golden (on the left) and Glenn Ligon at the 2018 Hammer Museum Gala in The Garden on October 14, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. Photo by David Livingston.
6750 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038, United States
Glenn Ligon at the exhibition of his works ‘Untitled (America)/Debris Field/Synecdoche/Notes for a Poem on the Third World’ held at Regen Projects in January 2019.
200 N Arthur Ashe Blvd, Richmond, VA 23220, United States
Glenn Ligon with his neon sculpture at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on the background.
45 Wyllys Ave, Middletown, CT 06459, United States
Fayerweather with Beckham Hal of the Wesleyan University where Glenn Ligon received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982.
99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014, United States
The Whitney Museum of American Art in which the Independent Study Program Glenn Ligon participated in 1985.
Ligon's work sold at Sotheby's ‘Contemporary Art Evening Auction’ in New York City for $3,973,000.
Glenn Ligon at work.
Arkwright Rd, London NW3 6DG, United Kingdom
Glenn Ligon in front of his works exhibited at Camden Arts Centre in 2014. Photo by Christina House.
Glenn Ligon was raised in a working-class family often living under strained financial conditions. Nevertheless, when Ligon was seven, his parents found enough money to enroll him and his younger brother at the prestigious Walden School (abolished).
In 1980, Glenn Ligon entered the Wesleyan University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in a couple of years. Three years later after graduation, he took part in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program.
In 2018, Glenn Ligon received an Honorary Doctorate from the New School.
Glenn Ligon started his career in 1982 when he occupied the post of a proofreader in a law firm. He spent his free time painting in the manner of abstract expressionists, such as Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. By the middle of the decade, the simple hobby transformed into a professional activity.
The first solo exhibition of his works titled ‘How It Feels to Be Colored Me’ took place in 1989 in Brooklyn. The exhibition earned him the reputation of an artist who created big text-based canvases with a repeated phrase or quote from literature. One of the first examples of such works became ‘I Am a Man’ of 1988, a reexamination of the signs of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike. In ‘Prologue Series #2’ or ‘Prologue Series #5’, the artist used the overlapping to attempt some illegibility aimed to catch the viewer’s attention better.
In the early 1990s, the popularity of Glenn Ligon rose up, placing him on a par with Janine Antoni, Renée Green, Marlon Riggs, Gary Simmons, and Lorna Simpson. In 1991, the artist took part at the Whitney Biennial. Two years later, he presented again his works on the show. It was the same time when Ligon initiated the first one of three series of gold-colored paintings based on the quotes from the performances of an American stand-up comedian Richard Pryor. The following year, Ligon presented to the public of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. his installation ‘To Disembark’ focused on racism and still existing traces of discrimination towards African Americans. Another series of the period included photo oriented projects ‘Notes on the Margin of the Black Book’ and ‘A Feast of Scraps’, his first web-based project. In 1996 and 1997, Ligon participated at two more Biennales, the one of Sydney and another in Venice.
The new decade was marked by the Kwangju Biennale and Documenta Exhibition in Kassel, Germany. During the period, the artist applied neon, video, and other digital media to his art. One of the first neon works, ‘Warm Broad Glow’, produced in 2005, was chosen three years later to be demonstrated at the Renaissance Society's group exhibition, ‘Black Is, Black Ain't’. The installation featured an excerpt of text from ‘Three Lives’ book by Gertrude Stein. Later, in 2011, the work was shown at the façade of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
At the turn of 2010, Ligon has tried his hand as a moviemaker. Inspired by Thomas Edison's 1903 silent film ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin’, the artist produced a short movie ‘The Death of Tom’. It was demonstrated as the progression of lights and darks accompanied by a narrative and the music composed and performed by a jazz musician Jason Moran. As to the exhibitions of the time, they included solo and group shows at the Kunstverein München, the Walker Art Center, the St. Louis Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the first retrospective of his art at The Power Plant in Toronto, Canada in 2005 which then travelled around the United States. The next one, ‘Glenn Ligon: America’, was organized six years later at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
A couple of following years, Glenn Ligon worked on the site-specific artwork for the New School's University Center building and as a curator on the show at Nottingham Contemporary which featured the works of 45 artists, including Andy Warhol and Steve McQueen. In 2017, he also curated Blue Black exhibition at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation which consisted of about sixty works, including several sculptures and installations by himself.
Since 2019, the representative of Ligon’s art has been Hauser & Wirth gallery. Nowadays, Glenn Ligon lives and works in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City.
As stated by the Federal Election Commission, Glenn Ligon gave $30,000 to sponsor the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
"An artwork is an arrangement of things. The ideal show for me would be if everything touched, literally touched, so that everything would blur together."
"It's an artist's job to always have their antennas up."
"Rather than say art is art and life is life, I like to say that they're joined and inextricable."
"Language controls how you are perceived by others, and in that sense, it is a prison."
"Race is not something inherent to one's being: One does feel more or less colored, depending on the situation."
"Doors have an immediate familiarity. They're everywhere. They're scaled to our bodies, so there's something human about them."
"I'm interested in when language fails, when it is opaque."
"I don't know if I would describe myself as a political artist."
"I'm not an Abstraction Expressionist, but I think dedication to paintings comes from an early interest in that work."
"I make art to figure out what I'm thinking, not to tell people what I think."
"If something sticks with me for a long time, it goes into a painting."
Glenn Ligon is gay.